PRE-K PROGRAMS

What age is preschool?

Two years prior to starting kindergarten is typically the age most children start preschool. Preschool programs, also known as Pre k or Pre-K, often set an enrollment minimum age of 3 years old. Parents and caregivers can spend a great deal of time researching if preschool is right for their child. Preschool can be seen as a way to jumpstart into kindergarten. Additionally, the benefits of Pre-K are compelling.

Benefits of Pre-K programs for students:

  • Children in preschool and Pre-K programs are more likely to have a more natural, smooth transition into kindergarten and elementary school.
  • Children with special needs in district Pre-K and preschool programs are identified earlier than those who wait until beginning elementary school.  This allows them a head start for receiving services.
  • Children ages 3-5 with disabilities are entitled to no-cost special services through PPCD (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities).
  • Dual language learners and economically disadvantaged students benefit more from Pre-K than their more advantaged or English-speaking peers.
text, learning, education

PreK Curriculum and Teaching Strategies

Traditional public school districts adhere to state guidelines and standards for all schoolchildren. Pre k curriculum and teaching strategies are developed and provided by educators and degreed child development experts. PreK curriculum is reviewed and assessed by the state’s education agency or education department.  The pre-k curriculum must meet state standards set by the board of education.

Creating a Learning Environment for Young Children

Effective preschool classrooms are places where children feel well-cared-for and safe. They are places where children are valued as individuals and where their needs for attention, approval, and affection are supported. They are also places where children can acquire a strong foundation in the knowledge and skills needed for future school success.

  • Young children need teachers who welcome all children to their classrooms. This includes children from various cultures whose first language is not English, as well as those with disabilities.
  • Young children need teachers who take time to work with them individually, in small groups, and sometimes with the entire class.  This helps them develop their cognitive and social skills, their language abilities, and their interest in learning new things about the world.
  • Young children need instruction to develop the thinking, language, and early literacy skills needed for continued school success.

Effective preschool teachers and child care providers:

  • Know when children develop new ideas and concepts on their own and when it is important to explain things to them step-by-step.
  • Encourage children to participate in classroom activities and honor classroom rules.
  • Listen to what children say and expand upon their language while building their vocabulary and background knowledge.
  • Know when to teach directly, when to provide time for exploration and discovery, when to practice skills, and when to encourage creativity.
  • Plan challenging activities that have a purpose.
  • Know how to help children learn to work together to resolve their conflicts.
  • Encourage children to respect each other’s time and personal belongings.
  • Provide many opportunities for conversations among children and adults.
  • Know how to establish and maintain order in a classroom but in a manner that permits the children to learn how to participate in and enjoy learning.
  • Arrange the classroom in a way that enhances their work with children and how the children spend their time.

Head Start Program

The largest Pre-K program in America is part of the Head Start program, which is administered by the Office of Head Start within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The Office of Head Start grants funding and oversees the agencies that provide Head Start services, as well as training and technical assistance. 

Head Start programs prepare preschool children for success in school by serving low-income families in order to help close the socio-economic divide.  The program was designed to meet the emotional, nutritional, and social needs of disadvantaged children in a positive learning environment.  

Early Head Start serves children ages birth to 5 years old, while Head Start enrollment ages are between 3 and 4 years old.  Children who are 3 years old prior to September 1 are eligible to apply for Head Start.  Families applying for Head Start services must meet poverty guidelines, and those receiving public assistance such as TANF are automatically eligible. Early Head Start programs are available to the family until the child turns 3 years old and is ready to transition into Head Start or another pre-K program.

Early Head Start and Head Start programs offer a variety of resources and support, depending on the needs of their communities.  The programs cater to the cultural and ethnic heritage of each local Head Start family. Some of the highlights and benefits of these programs include:

Early Learning Experiences

Head Start children are introduced to language and literacy at a young age.  They develop their social skills and concept understanding through relationships with others, planned and spontaneous play and instruction, and individualized learning experiences.

Early Health Awareness

Head Start children receive nutritious meals and health and development screenings.  Families are connected with medical, dental, and mental health support.  Children are allowed to explore and thrive in their environment in order to develop physical and motor skills.

Early Family Engagement

Head Start families engage in their child’s learning, therefore the parent-child relationship strengthens. The program helps parents achieve financial, housing, and educational goals with community support and guidance.

PRE-K NEWS