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Testimony: State of Pre-Kindergarten Education in DC 2013

Word cloud of testimony

A word cloud of common words in Judith Sandalow’s December 11 testimony.

Children’s Law Center executive director Judith Sandalow testified before the DC Council Committee on Education at a hearing on the state of pre-kindergarten education in DC. Read a summary below or review the full testimony as submitted to the committee. 

Ensuring that all our children receive a high-quality early childhood education is one of the smartest investments the District can make in our children and in our city’s future, Sandalow testified. Early education provides the foundation for all future learning. The District should be proud of our position as a leader in providing universal Pre-Kindergarten.

The early years of a child’s life, when his or her brain is forming, provides a critical window of opportunity: during these brief years caregivers and teachers have great influence to shape a child’s future potential in terms of social, emotional, and academic skills. Young children are impacted, positively or negatively, by their home, community and school environment. Children who live in low-income households – which is 42% of DC’s children – are more likely to face traumatic stress which can seriously impair their development. But enriching early environments, such as Pre-Kindergarten classrooms, can mitigate the effect of this stress.

It is important, of course, that these Pre-Kindergarten programs be high-quality. Currently, there is no standardized way of comparing the quality of publicly-funded early childhood education programs in the District. Different programs (community-based, Head Start, DCPS, charters) all meet varying standards. We look forward to getting more information on the quality of the District’s programs through the Kindergarten Entry Assessment pilot which is being launched this school year as well as the Quality Rating Improving System which begins this spring.

Intervening early in a child’s life by providing high-quality early education, rather than trying to catch a child up or remediate problems later in life, is also cost-effective. On average, every dollar spent on Pre-Kindergarten returns $7 in later cost-savings and benefits. The District has wisely recognized this, and Sandalow said she hopes our investment in Pre-Kindergarten will continue and also spread to other areas of preventive and early intervention services.