NY1: Data on Pre-K Program Performance Not Easy for Parents to Find or Understand

By Lindsey Christ Friday, December 18, 2015

On Friday, the city released numbers that detail the performance of many pre-K programs, but for parents, the data isn’t easy to find or understand. NY1’s Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Mayor Bill de Blasio always uses the same phrase to describe his new universal pre-kindergarten program: “high-quality pre-k.” But there hasn’t been data to support that claim until Friday, when the city released evaluation results for two-thirds of its 1,800 pre-k sites.

The verdict: The programs at 77 percent of the sites are running so well, the children in them should benefit throughout their school years. The results at the other 23 percent of sites suggest that those kids will have no lasting benefit, but education officials refused to see it that way.

“We make sure that every program that kids go into is a high quality program,” said Deputy Schools Chancellor Josh Wallack.

Officials concede that they are using the results in deciding which programs need help.

“We send support in to help a program grow where there are areas for improvement,” Wallack said.

Evaluators rated each pre-K program on everything from how classrooms are organized to the questions teachers ask. Research has shown that the results are useful predictors of how children will benefit later in life.

But the de Blasio administration is not exactly presenting the numbers in a parent-friendly way. Visitors to the city website must navigate through several pages to find one gigantic spreadsheet with statistics on each program. However, there is no user’s guide, making it impossible to know, for example, what a 3.5 on “Personal Care and Routines” means.

One trend does leap out from the data. Contrary to popular belief, the programs with the lowest scores are all in public schools, and the Pre-K programs with the highest scores are almost all run by outside organizations, rather than the Department of Education.

“Community-based early childhood education programs provide critical programs for our city’s children, but their teachers and staff are paid far less than these same teachers in public schools,” said Susan Stamler of United Neighborhood Houses.

The finding that lower-paid teachers often are delivering better results might give ammunition to critics of the Department of Education. The agency sidestepped questions about the disparity


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