Reposted from TN Edu-Independent. Posted: 17 Jan 2014
There were some more specifics released this past Tuesday night about the MNPS PreK plan for Nashville.
As I've referenced before, I think we need to do much better as a city in providing more robust early childhood development and learning for every child, but I'm not sure if "universal" PreK delivered by the school district is the way to go.
I want to preface all my comments by saying that I genuinely respect the internal MNPS leadership and staff working on the MNPS PreK project. They are driven for the right reasons and sharp, and I trust they will study effective models and ensure that the programming details of the MNPS PreK project will be based on evidence supported best practices. I worry that for some, this PreK project is a push is for political reasons. Whatever details of the model emerge, it needs to be based on best practices and meeting the need that exists in the city, creating the greatest chance of success for young students (decisions not made for political reasons).
I have some thoughts, some as constructive feedback, on thinking through the details of how expanding MNPS PreK would work, based on the plan presented to the Board:
I mapped the Head Start Centers, see the green icons (there are 3 partner Head Start sites, others are Head Start direct run). The red "P" marker are the proposed PreK center locations. This map does not include places like Fannie Battle, Martha O'Bryan, and McNeilly Center's own early childhood classrooms (all located in East or North Nashville). Nor does it include the Ashland City Head Start center, which is outside of Davidson County, but by distance is not that far from Bordeaux Elementary's location.
My point is that there is a lot of existing capacity in North and East Nashville for publicly provided ECE (early childhood education), and I worry that adding two more dedicated PreK centers will cause an oversupply of ECE in this part of the county (if there isn't already). The bulk of demand is likely coming from the southeast part of the county.
It would not be feasible to bus PreK 4 year old students from Antioch every day to the Bordeaux or Ross Centers, so being able to serve demand from these areas at the Bordeaux & Ross centers via transportation doesn't seem likely.
MNPS data shows that in total numbers, the Bordeaux/Cumberland elementary zone areas are not projected to enroll that many students in Kindergarten over the next 5 years. I think PreK elgible numbers would actually be less than the projected K numbers on this chart. If you sum these two zones, it's still well short of the planned capacity of the Bordeaux ECE center (while considering all the other spots at Head Start, private providers, and non profit providers like McNeilly, Fannie Battle, etc).
As plan details continue to be refined and finalized, I hope that the leaders of this plan continue to focus on implementing evidence based practices while being mindful of parent demand and where it exists in the county to ensure that any MNPS PreK offered consists of high quality education and development programming.