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PROGRESS TOWARD UNIVERSAL PRESCHOOL SLOWING

ELC REPORT SHOWS CHANGE IN CALCULATION OF ELIGIBLE UNIVERSE LEADS TO UNDERCOUNTING

Newark NJ -- August 5, 2010

In 2009-10, over 9,000 eligible 3- and 4-year-olds in the Abbott districts were not enrolled in preschool. Despite initial gains, progress toward universal enrollment in these districts has slowed in recent years, according to a report released by Education Law Center on August 5.

"The Abbott Preschool Program: A 10-Year Progress Report" examines the state of universal preschool programs in the 31 poor, urban districts formerly known as Abbotts. The report examines trends in overall enrollment and enrollment by age and explores the diversity of preschool providers.

The School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) revised the method for calculating the estimated eligible preschool population in NJ. The report finds the new calculation systematically undercounts that population by as many as 6,000 children.

"As a result of this modification, many districts may scale back recruitment and facilities planning under the false pretense that they are adequately reaching their eligible students," said Dr. Danielle Farrie, ELC Research Director and the report's author.

The report also finds that enrollment of 3-year-olds lags behind that of 4-year-olds, despite research demonstrating the academic advantage of two years of preschool.

The "10-Year Progress Report" makes a series of recommendations, including a revision of the methodology used to estimate the preschool universe, outreach to increase enrollment (especially of 3-year-olds), and a thorough assessment by both the NJ Department of Education and individual school districts of barriers preventing them from achieving universal enrollment.

"New Jersey's Abbott Preschool Program is rightly seen as a national model," Dr. Farrie said. "However, the State needs to renew its commitment to early childhood education and continue working towards the goal of universal enrollment of all 3- and 4-year-olds."


Education Law Center Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy & Outreach Coordinator
email: skrengel@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x24