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    Posted: Apr 10 2012 at 9:29pm
From the MJ:

Ohio worst in survey of preschools

State policy meets 2 of 10 quality benchmarks in a nationwide study.

By Jill Kelley, Staff Writer 8:53 PM Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A new study of state-funded preschool education, based on state policy, ranked Ohio last out of 39 states evaluated.

According to a study released Tuesday by the nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research, Ohio met the fewest benchmarks for quality preschool standards of any state offering state-funded preschool last year.

Jen Fitzgerald, one of the authors of the national report, said decreased state funding was the biggest threat to the quality of preschool programs.

“Part of the problem with Ohio is what was cut was monitoring, and that’s where the state goes out and visits individual classrooms,” Fitzgerald said. “Also, Ohio had another preschool program that met more benchmarks, the Early Learning Initiative, which the state stopped funding in 2009.”

The report, “The State of Preschool 2011,” had Ohio coming in 39th out of 39 states that have a state-funded prekindergarten program in meeting two of the 10 benchmarks listed as “consistent with what research has found to be highly effective.”

On the benchmarks, which are not based on classroom performance, Ohio met the standard for teacher specialized training and screenings/support services.

The Ohio Department of Education said the report applies exclusively to the 203 school districts, Educational Service Centers and joint vocational schools that receive funding through Ohio’s Early Childhood Education program, which offers services to 3- and 4-year-olds based on need.

Statewide, the ECE program funds services to 5,700 students, or 2 percent of Ohio preschoolers.

In the Dayton area, 313 students receive services provided by ECE funds at Dayton Public Schools, Fairborn City Schools, Jefferson Twp. Local Schools, Kettering City Schools, Northridge Local Schools, Trotwood-Madison City Schools, Upper Valley Career Center, Warren County Career Center, West Carrollton City Schools and Xenia Community Schools.

The report shows that Ohio spent $3,932 in the 2010-11 school year per child enrolled in the ECE program, for a total of $22.4 million.

The national average for these state-funded programs is $4,151 per student and $5.4 billion, although the report noted that total state funding for prekindergarten programs decreased by nearly $60 million nationwide for the 2010-11 school year, and had decreased by $30 million the year before.

In Ohio, the ODE reported for fiscal years 2008 and 2009, the state appropriated $36.5 million. However, through reductions, the final appropriation for 2009 was $34.7 million.

For 2010 and 2011, the state appropriated $23.2 million for each year.

However, while Ohio’s funding has waned and its policy is getting a failing grade, the districts using these programs are not necessarily faring poorly.

“Whether or not preschool programs follow this (policy) is up to them,” Fitzgerald said.

Rusty Clifford, superintendent of West Carrollton City Schools, said his district has made the ECE program an excellent opportunity for students.

“We’re pleased with our program,” Clifford said. “We’ve got teachers in there with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. There’s a waiting list to get in our program.”

In addition to some districts exceeding requirements, the ODE reported that additional funding is on the way.

Ohio recently received the largest Race to the Top grant of any state — a four-year, $70 million grant to be used from 2012-2015 to address the quality of programs that serve high-needs children from birth to age 5.

“Obviously, the state is working on improvements,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re hoping that next year we will have better things to say about them.”

States and benchmarks

The 10 state policy benchmarks listed by the National Institute for Early Education Research are: early learning standards, teacher degree, teacher specialized training, assistant teacher degree, teacher in-service hours, average class size, average staff-to-child ratio, health screening/referral and support services, daily meals and site visits.

Ohio’s policy achieved the fewest quality standards of the 39 states with state-funded prekindergarten programs, hitting two of 10.

Two states earned three of 10 indicators: California and Florida.

Five states earned perfect 10s for their policies: Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, North Carolina and Rhode Island.

Ohio’s neighbors varied, with Kentucky meeting nine standards, Michigan meeting seven, Pennsylvania at 5.2, and Indiana not having a state-funded program.

Source: National Instituted for Early Education Research

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