The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents


James A. Kadamus


Rebecca H. Cort 




Policy Review of Early Childhood Education


February 23, 2005




Review of Regents Policy


Goals 1 and 2






In 1992, the Board of Regents adopted a very comprehensive and lengthy document on the early care and education service delivery systems.  This document provided data and research reflecting the early 1980s through 1992.  It also developed a comprehensive action plan for interagency work, childcare system needs and educational directives.


In the past 13 years there have been dramatic changes in every aspect of early education.  In December 2003, the Board approved a plan that looked toward revising the current policy, beginning with a directive to conduct public forums on early education issues.


The attached report should be considered a bridging document that summarizes responses from public engagement and proposes a framework for the components of a revised early childhood education policy.


Based upon your approval of the policy directions recommended, the Department would proceed with drafting a revised policy paper, followed by a comment period for the field, revision of the document as needed and submission to the Board for approval in December 2005.










In 1992, the Board of Regents adopted its early education policy entitled, “Supporting Young Children and Their Families: A Regents Policy Statement on Early Childhood.”  It was accompanied by a 54-page background paper, included a call for action, discussion of the need for change, the direction for change, eight essential elements of effective early childhood education, and the importance of collaboration in creating the needed change.  The core tenets of the policy addressed eight essential components of effective early childhood education:


·        Environments that were safe, socially enhancing, emotionally nurturing and intellectually stimulating.

·        Group sizes and adult ratios that maintained small groups.

·        Teacher qualifications that ensured knowledge of early childhood development.

·        Curriculum and assessments that were based on teacher observations and developmentally appropriate practices.

·        Continuity between programs as children move from preschool to kindergarten.

·        Comprehensive services including health, social services, transportation and nutrition as program components.

·        Parent participation as being critical to the growth and development of children.

·        Leadership from knowledgeable and experienced persons in the early childhood areas.


In 1993, the Regents approved the dissemination of a 33-page action plan that included recommendations for implementing the above 8 tenets of the policy.  Since 1992, there have been significant demographic shifts within the State that have dramatically affected the lives of young children and their families.  Specifically:


Demographic Changes


·        The percentage of working mothers has risen from 32-64 percent (U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Ways and Means, 2004).

·        The 2000 census showed that in New York State 1.2 million children under the age of 6 are in care outside their home and 2.2 million children between the ages of 6-12 are in before/after child care settings.

·        Children on average are in child care settings outside of the home for 20-40 hours a week, representing over 65 percent of their time with adults other than their parents (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Health Statistics).

·        Of the approximately 250,000 four-year-olds, 80 percent are in some type of early care settings prior to entering kindergarten (Human Service Policy Center, 2004).

·        The overall number of young children is, however, declining.  Over the past 10 years, there has been a reduction of approximately 13 percent in the number of kindergarten children served in public schools (BEDS, 2003-04).

·        In New York State, there is an estimated 15,000 school-age children who qualify as homeless (considered a low estimate as many homeless family situations go unreported). Although an estimated 88 percent of homeless students are enrolled in school, approximately 45 percent do not attend school regularly (U.S. Department of Education).

·        The number of children, birth to age five, receiving early intervention and preschool special education programs has been steadily increasing.  Between December 1, 1997 and December 1, 2003, there was a 40 percent increase from 50,480 to 70,962 children.

·        The majority of preschool students with disabilities receive special education from approved providers in the private sector.  The ratio of preschool students receiving special education in private versus public programs is 6:1. 


In response to these changes and the growing body of research showing the importance of early learning and literacy, New York State has moved in the following direction:


State Initiatives


·        Continued support for the Experimental Pre-kindergarten Program renamed as Targeted Pre-kindergarten Program.

·        Implemented a universal pre-kindergarten program, commencing in 1998, which currently serves 52,000 four-year-olds.

·        Increased the number of full-day kindergarten programs from 420 districts (1991), with an additional 274 offering a combination of full- and half-day, to 581 districts (2003), with an additional 42 offering a combination of full- and half-day.

·        Decreased class sizes since the Early Grade Class Size Reduction Program was implemented.  In 2003-04, there were 219 school districts participating with a total allocation of $138,362,907.

·        Secured federal funding, commencing in 2000, to support scientifically-based reading instruction for kindergarten to grade three students.  Federal funds for early reading initiatives were also made available to eligible school districts serving children under five.

·        Developed performance indicators for pre-kindergarten that are aligned with State learning standards for K-12 students.

·        Revised teacher certification regulations (effective 2/04) to include certificates for Early Childhood Education, birth – grade 2, and Childhood Education, grades 1-6.

·        In June 2004, the Department provided local education agencies (LEAs) with guidance on identifying and evaluating homeless preschoolers and making sure they are enrolled in an appropriate preschool program.

·        Pursuant to New York State law and regulation, by January 1st of 1997 each provider of special education programs for preschool children with disabilities was required to submit a business plan.  This plan assisted the Department in converting full-day special education classes to half-day classes, replacing full-or half-day special education classes with more integrated service models, and ensuring more integrated placement options for preschool students with disabilities.  This, coupled with a moratorium on approval of new or expanded programs in settings which include only preschool students with disabilities without documented regional need, has allowed New York State to make progress in ensuring only reasonable and necessary program growth, while meeting the statutory requirement to provide services in the least restrictive environment. 

·        In August 2003, the Department issued three publications to improve the outcomes for young children with disabilities.

·        The Department is currently in year 5 of a longitudinal study regarding the academic and social achievement of young children with disabilities.


The New York State Education Department with its statewide partnerships has accomplished a great deal in support of young children’s early care and education. Although improvement has been steady, Department data reveal that the student achievement gap continues to persist, especially for students in some urban, high-need districts.  Additionally, high numbers of preschool students with disabilities continue to be served in segregated, more restrictive environments without their non-disabled peers.  In light of this information, in December 2003 the Regents supported the need for engaging the public around specific issues related to revising the existing early childhood policy to reflect a course of action that meets the current needs of our State’s youngest students. The following is the outcome of that public engagement.


Results of Public Engagement


Seven public discussion meetings were held in key geographic locations in March and April 2004.  Two were hosted at a statewide early childhood conference in New York City, two at BOCES in Long Island and Ulster County, two at elementary schools in Buffalo and Syracuse, and one at a community college in the North Country.  The 315 forum participants represented higher education, public school districts and BOCES, community-based organizations, State agencies, parents and parent advocacy groups, special education, libraries, private agencies, preschool providers such as child care, Head Start, Even Start, State-funded pre-kindergarten, and the media.  The agenda provided a brief overview of early childhood issues followed by small group discussions to obtain feedback on each issue.  The discussions centered on the following topics: high quality early education programs, preparation and training of teachers and administrators, assessment of student progress, and engagement of parents.   Feedback indicated strong support for:


§         Establishing universal pre-kindergarten programs by creating an entitlement for all age-eligible students and establishing a consistent funding source through State aid.

§         Mandating attendance in full-day kindergarten programs.

§         Providing shared professional development between preschool providers and elementary schools.

§         Providing more extensive training and preparation in early childhood education for teachers and administrators in elementary schools.

§         Aligning curriculum and instruction with the New York State Learning Standards.

§         Increasing awareness of the purpose of assessment and using more uniformity in collecting, interpreting, and using data to inform instruction.

§         Increasing school personnel’s awareness of how to work more collaboratively with parents to reinforce students’ learning and development through curriculum-based parent training.


The discussion around these broad areas created a need for more in-depth conversations on specific policy directions.  Invitations were extended to parents and professionals who have a vested interest in early childhood education policy.  Three focus group meetings were conducted in November, one each in New York City, Buffalo and Albany.  The 56 participants represented the New York State Parent Teacher Association, parents, teachers and administrators of public and nonpublic schools, faculty of institutions of higher education, child care agencies and advocacy groups, State early childhood associations, district early childhood directors, Head Start, Even Start, New York State United Teachers, New York City Department of Education, and members of the Board of Regents.  The consensus of discussions with constituents indicated that future policy directions should focus on the following:


§         Creating a statewide effort focused on children from birth to age three.

§         Making pre-kindergarten an entitlement, as is kindergarten currently.

§         Continuing required collaboration with community-based programs for the delivery of pre-kindergarten programs.

§         Changing compulsory school age from six to five.

§         Providing funding to support full-day kindergarten in all school districts and requiring attendance.

§         Replacing kindergarten screening with a statewide early assessment system that is more uniform, comprehensive, and focused on progress monitoring and outcomes.

§         Establishing more consistency in the implementation of standards-based curriculum, instruction, and assessment in the early grades.

§         Expanding the availability and appropriate use of technology in pre-kindergarten-grade 3.

§         Strengthening preparation of teachers and administrators through enhancing college experiences and augmenting professional development so that both are more focused on the needs of young children and their families.

§         Increasing flexibility of local educational agencies (LEAs) to hire and retain teachers in both the early childhood education and childhood education certificate titles as well as teachers with special education and reading instruction backgrounds.


Recommendations for a Revised Early Childhood Education Document


Based on the work of the Department, public engagement opportunities, and changes in early care and education service delivery, the following broad areas are recommended as a framework for revising the current early childhood policy.  


1.         Establish a revised policy statement


The revised policy statement would reinforce the Board’s commitment to early childhood education as a pre-kindergarten to grade three continuum.  The policy statement would affirm the Board of Regents commitment to:


·        Ensure a focused outreach effort to families with children birth to age three, including those with infants and toddlers with disabilities.

·        Ensure equitable access to early childhood education programs for all children, including children with disabilities, ages three to nine.

·        Ensure high quality programs by establishing assessments, standards and performance indicators that are aligned with current research.  Programs would need to conduct assessments of all new entrants using research-based progress monitoring tools.

·        Ensure that programs are staffed by persons that are certified and highly qualified.  Embedded in this goal would be the need to ensure that pre-service programs in institutions of higher education are aligned with current research and the needs of the current delivery systems.

·        Ensure increased availability of integrated private and public program models, including universal pre-kindergarten, for preschool students with disabilities.

·        Ensure meaningful curriculum-based parent training and ensure parent involvement by helping parents provide home-based support that enhances their children’s academic program.

·        Ensure that the collective resources of the University of the State of New York (USNY) are used to build an infrastructure that supports early education and literacy development for all children, birth to grade three.


2.         Develop a revised action plan to implement the above policy:


I.  Key Strategies to Attain Equitable Access

Action Steps




§         Provide funding and continue collaboration with community-based early childhood programs to provide universal pre-kindergarten programs for all three- and four-year-olds.

§         Bring together a broad range of stakeholders (e.g., early intervention officials, parents, preschool providers, school district representatives and legislators) to review New York’s system for providing preschool special education services and the current funding structure.



§          The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates a free appropriate public education for all identified three- and four-year-old preschool children with disabilities.  Pre-kindergarten programs designed to meet the needs of all three- and four-year-olds would greatly enhance integration of students with disabilities at the classroom level.  It would also establish one system for all children that would meet their needs.


§         Data from school districts with universal pre-kindergarten programs show significant decreases in performance gaps.


§         Kindergarten is no longer the entry point for many children’s formal education.  Demographics show that the majority of young children are cared for in settings outside of their home.  However, opportunities to attend programs is often a function of geographic availability and parental income. 


§         Reaffirms the Regents position as articulated in the 2005-06 State Aid Proposal.

§         Implement full-day kindergarten programs to be universally available and attended by all age-eligible children, including children with disabilities.  Change compulsory age of entrance into public school from six to five.















§        Enacting mandatory full-day kinder-garten is feasible.  Most LEAs currently provide full-day kindergarten programs.


§      Full-day kindergarten is an essential component of the pre-kindergarten--grade 16 educational continuum and ensures adequate instructional time to improve student performance.  Because kindergarten is not mandated, it is often targeted for elimination during times of limited fiscal resources.


§         Full-day kindergarten is an important step in closing the achievement gap.  Research shows that children in full-day programs, on average, make greater gains in reading and math achievement scores than their counterparts who attend half-day programs.

§         Ensure that scientifically-based reading research strategies are used to provide explicit and direct instruction in early literacy and emergent reading skills appropriate for the age level of children.











§         The level of a child’s reading score at the end of first grade is a strong predictor (88 percent) of how the child reads at the end of grade 3.  Ninety percent of children who are not reading at grade level by the end of grade 3 never catch up.


§         The majority of children identified as learning disabled are diagnosed as such due to reading difficulties.  We need programs with more direct and explicit instruction in reading.


§         Current brain research by Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz show that under utilized areas of the brain used for reading can be stimulated through direct and explicit instruction.


§         Research conducted by the Department through the Preschool Special Education Quality Indicator Study shows that program quality makes a difference in student outcomes and may result in significant cost savings.

§         Promote the integration of homeless and migrant students, particularly in pre-kindergarten-grade 3, into supportive educational settings in order to provide equal access to learning and development.






§      Homeless children are twice as likely as their housed peers to repeat a grade, have frequent absences, move from school to school and have learning disabilities.


§      Homelessness and migratory status almost always act as a barrier to enrollment, attendance and success in school.


§      Integration of special populations of students must be in coordination with other efforts to identify and respond to holistic needs of students and their families.

§         Take a more active role in partnering with State networks to disseminate information on access to quality early care and education to all parents of children birth to age 3.

§      The majority of preschool children will at some point be enrolled in a public school.


§         Many parents do not have access to critical information needed to guide them in selecting quality care and early education programs.

II.  Key Strategies for Equitability of Program Quality

Action Steps




§         Revise current screening procedures under Part 117 of the Commissioner's Regulations.  Assessment of new entrants for pre-kindergarten-grade 3 must be aligned with early literacy standards and performance indicators.  The design must ensure a statewide approach for assessing students.  It should also include the following areas:

-         vision

-         hearing

-         dental

-         adaptive skills

-         motor skills

-         social, emotional and behavioral functioning

-         cognitive function

-         language development

-         information from assessment embedded as part of student IEP.

§         There is a preponderance of research indicating that participation in quality early childhood programs has a significant positive impact on all developmental domains and is a strong contributing factor for closing the achievement gap.  It is imperative that assessment tools be designed to provide information relevant to instructional needs.


§         Research indicates that the quality of a student’s educational experience is directly attributable to the income level of his/her parents.  The quality of early childhood curriculum and assessments vary greatly across the State.  Improved guidance on research-based instruction is needed.

§         Develop discrete standards and performance indicators that are designed to:

-         build continuity of teaching and learning across settings.

-         align developmental and content areas with standard-based instruction.

-         respond to the diverse needs of all children.

-         establish small group sizes.

-         provide support services as needed.

-         expand the amount of direct instruction in skill-based early literacy appropriate to the age level of each child.

-         develop program quality indi-cators.


§         Require that all teachers providing instruction in pre-kindergarten-grade 3 be certified.

-         Work with institutions of higher education to strengthen birth -grade 2 certification so that it more effectively meets the needs of public schools.


§         Collaborate with institutions of higher education to focus preservice training on instructional practices aligned with current research, standards and assessments.

§         We must ensure that the learning outcomes and indicators for kindergarten participation completed by VESID for students with disabilities are also embedded within the performance indicators recently revised for all students.














§         Research provides clear evidence of the high correlation between teacher preparation and experience and student achievement.

III.  Key Strategies for Parental Engagement

Action Steps




§         Implement curriculum-based parent training for pre-kindergarten-grade 3 parents in areas related to early literacy and language skills.


§         Require LEAs to provide more productive opportunities for pre-kindergarten--grade 3 parents to be actively involved in supporting students’ learning and development.

§         Parent knowledge of curriculum content increases their understanding of academic expectations and empowers parents to provide and reinforce opportunities for learning at home.


§         Research provides evidence of improved performance of students whose parents play an active role in the educational environment.


§         Provide parents with tools for assessing program quality and assessment.



IV.  Key Strategies for Improving Professional Development and Preservice Education

Action Steps





§         Identify and support LEAs and community-based organizations that are using the early childhood focus of the new birth-grade 2 teaching certificate to create programs better suited to meeting the needs of younger children and their families.

§         Encourage the hiring of teachers with dual certification in general education and special education to provide for greater instructional flexibility and to improve the quality of education for all students.




§         Ensure that preservice education and professional development include scientifically-based reading research.

§         Teacher certification areas, birth-grade 2 and grades 1-6 were revised in an effort to allow districts greater capacity to meet the needs of younger children.  The current birth-grade 2 certificate has not been fully embraced.  LEAs are reluctant to hire new teachers with only this certificate as it limits their flexibility to transfer teachers to upper grades in future years.

§         The new February 2, 2004 certification structure for special education teachers requires developmental pedagogy as well as the foundations of special education.


§         Leverage the resources of USNY to ensure delivery of more consistent professional development (PBS stations, libraries, etc.)


§         Work in collaboration with repre-sentatives from institutions of higher education to reexamine preservice education models that provide support for attaining dual certification.



Next Steps


Should the proposed framework meet with the Board’s approval, the following steps are proposed:


o       July 2005                          Draft of revised early childhood policy to Board of Regents


o       September 2005             Disseminate revised policy to the field for comment


o       October and                     Make revisions based on input from the field

November 2005


o       December 2005              Submit final version of revised early childhood policy for Board discussion and approval