Choosing the Right Preschool for Your Family - Sponsored ArticleFeb 19, 2023 09:05AM ● By Deborah Doss
Many times I have been asked by parents how they can determine the quality of a Preschool, Pre-K or even a TK/PK program. There are many factors to determine whether a program is made up of quality elements.
One source is the Sacramento County Office of Education’s (SCOE) Raising Quality Together, which focuses on a seven-part system for determining whether a program run by a school district, a center, or a family child care licensee is committed to quality. The seven elements for quality can be viewed by going to this link: https://sacramentocountyearlylearning.org/programitem.cfm?id=32
Some other counties have similar systems for improving and rating program quality. Ratings for providers are sometimes published, such as at: https://www.sacramentocountyearlylearning.org/admin/files/resource/158/RQT%2018_19%20Tier%20Ratings.pdf
An additional way to determine if the school is committed to quality is to see if the program is participating in an accreditation process or is already accredited. It does cost money to follow an accreditation process, ranging from about $1,000 to $3,000 (and that does not include the time and self study that is involved with the process), and so is a sign of the school’s commitment to quality. Accreditation programs are offered by multiple sources such as the National Association of Family Child Care.
During my time participating in the SCOE Raising Quality Program (including the NAFCC Accreditation process) there have been common threads, and those are a focus on quality interactions, small group size, and low student-to-teacher ratios. The first one is the focus on quality interactions. This concept is expressed over and over again, but what does it really mean? When viewing quality interactions, you will see a teacher being responsive when the children initiates communication, or you will see a teacher engaging when the child is communicating non-verbally, modeling language, naming things in the environment, supporting bilingual development, attending to a child's individual needs, and engaging the children with rich experience with books and stories. There is also a CLASS Assessment that a provider can participate in just to determine the quality rating of teacher interactions.
Then there is small group size, another element of a quality program. The California Department of Education knows the importance of this element, and quality-oriented family childcare licensees will embrace small group size by following specific ratios of teachers to students. What I have personally found to be highly successful is when I have three teachers working with a group of twelve children. What I know is that when I follow the model of three teachers to twelve children the quality is significant. I have personally witnessed over and over again how a child experiences more quality interactions with other children and with the teachers when the ratio is at an optimum. And most importantly, children’s language development is enhanced because of the quality of experience with language that the teachers provided.
In addition to the factors describing a program that are listed above, direct observation of the preschool, pre-K, or TK/PK environment can also be very helpful in evaluating the program. If a parent was to walk into a program to observe, what should they look for? I found this checklist to be helpful for my parents:
Did the Preschool, Pre-K or TK/PK Teacher:
- Respond to children initiating communication?
- Engage in non-verbal communication with the children?
- Help children expand language?
- Support bilingual development?
- Model language for the children?
- Engage the children with books and stories?
- Engage in playful use of language?
- Create a communication-friendly environment?
- Provide a positive environment for the children?
Once you've considered all of these criteria, you'll be better equipped to make the right schooling decision for your little one.
—Deborah Doss, Director/ Lead Teacher of American River Montessori located in Folsom, CA
Sponsored article submitted by American River Montessori; photos courtesy of American River Montessori