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Upcoming Events

Save the Date

2012 Early Childhood Summit
June 13 and 14, 2012
Nashville Convention Center

(more information to follow)

Thank you

Thank you to everyone that attended the 2011 Pre-K Day on the Hill. Below are several photos from the breakfast reception and Hill Day.

photo of Rep. Gotto with Diane Neighbors and Stewart Clifton   Representative Jim Gotto stands with Diane Neighbors, chair of the Tennessee Alliance for Early Education, and Stewart Clifton at the Pre-K Day on the Hill breakfast reception.

State Representative Johnny Shaw   State Representative Johnny Shaw stands with pre-K advocates at the 2011 Pre-K Day on the Hill breakfast reception.

Ben Landers with Advocates   Ben Landers, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Knoxville, and state Senator Jamie Woodson stand with several student advocates from the University of Tennessee at the Pre-K Day on the Hill breakfast reception.

Bill Haslam   Bill Haslam is presented with the United Ways of Tennessee Advocacy Leadership Award for his continued support of the Tennessee’s voluntary pre-K program.

Mayor Karl Dean   Mayor Karl Dean is presented with the United Ways of Tennessee Teaching Effectiveness Champion Award for his continued support and work with Tennessee’s voluntary pre-K program.


Pre-K in the News

Following is a statement from Diane Neighbors, chair of the Tennessee Alliance for Early Education, sent out on October 14, 2010, regarding the October report on the state's Voluntary Pre-K Program by Strategic Research Group.

The October SRG report once again confirms what we have said all along – that the state's nationally recognized Voluntary Pre-K Program is successful in preparing children for kindergarten and first grade. It is important to keep in mind that while pre-K is proven to help children succeed in school and in life, it should not be seen as the only means of preparing a child academically for second, third, fourth and fifth grades. Tennessee has raised academic standards for its public school students. It is critical that we continue to provide our state's at-risk children with a pre-K education so that they will be prepared to learn under higher academic standards.

Many national studies confirm the effectiveness of high-quality pre-kindergarten education to make a significant impact on the long-term educational outcomes of students. We believe expanding availability of the program, so that more of Tennessee's at-risk children may attend, is a key strategy to improving education in our state.


The following release was sent out on August 3, 2010:


NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen and Education Commissioner Tim Webb today announced that Tennessee's Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program now extends to every school district in all 95 counties of the state. This marks the first Voluntary Pre-K classrooms for Sumner County and Washington County Schools.

For the 2010-11 academic year, the state's program includes 934 Pre-K classrooms with total funding of approximately $84.7 million.

“I'm extremely pleased our high quality Pre-K classrooms are now available in every county of the state,” said Bredesen. “Pre-K is one of the best investments we can make in the lives of our young people, and now that opportunity is available to more parents and families who want it for their children across the state of Tennessee.”

“Governor Bredesen's dedication to Pre-K has been unwavering and this is the ultimate result of that dedication,” Webb said. “There is no more important time than now to dedicate early education resources as we ramp up our standards and prepare to implement our Race to the Top plan.”

Tennessee's Voluntary Pre-K program once again received high marks this year in the National Institute of Early Education Research's annual report, which ranked Tennessee among the top states for percentage of children enrolled and funding per child. Tennessee's program met nine out of 10 quality standard benchmarks in the report, increased enrollment of four-year-olds and earned an overall ranking of 15th for funding per child with $4,520.

The emphasis placed on early childhood education has also been cited as one of the factors for success in Tennessee's Race to the Top application. Tennessee was one of just two states out of 41 applicants to be successful in Race to the Top's first round.


Pre-K Now sent the following release on May 20, 2010:

Pre-k addition to nation's major education law would strengthen state reform efforts

WASHINGTON – In spite of widespread fiscal distress in states, FY11 budget proposals from the nation's governors and the mayor of the District of Columbia keep overall state funding for prekindergarten near the previous year's levels. Should all the governors' budgets pass, state pre-k investments would remain at $5.3 billion, increasing by less than 0.2 percent, or slightly more than $8.2 million, according to a new report by Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States.

Leadership Matters: Governors' Pre-K Budget Proposals Fiscal Year 2011 finds that access to state funded high-quality pre-k remains largely dependent on where children live, with gubernatorial proposals ranging widely from significant expansion in Alabama to elimination in Arizona.

“Many state leaders continue to see pre-k as a smart reform strategy for improving public education that generates high returns on taxpayer investments even in a tough economy,” said Marci Young, project director of Pre-K Now. “To improve our schools, Congress should include incentives in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that strengthens state investments and capitalize on pre-k's proven ability to multiply the effects of other education reforms.”

Highlights from this year's report include:

•  Nine governors would increase pre-k investments. These proposals would increase funding for early learning in these states by a total of $78.5 million.

•  Three states and the District of Columbia anticipate an increase for pre-k through their school funding formulas.

•  Ten governors are prop osing to flat fund pre-k. These proposals maintain funding for early learning at FY10 levels and include Alaska and Rhode Island, which both started new programs in FY10.

•  Twelve governors are proposing to decrease pre-k funding. In these states, early le arning investments would decline by a total of $100.6 million.

•  Ten states provide no state-funded pre-k.

“Governors have had to cut many state programs to the bone during the recession, but our report shows that as a group they've tried to hold the line on pre-k because it's cost-effective and yields solid returns,” said Young. “When they're looking to turn around underperforming school districts and level the playing field for young children, many governors view pre-k as the first step in their education reform game plan.”

Pre-K Now's annual report evaluates budget proposals for the coming school year and documents governors' remarks in recent state of the state addresses to determine which leaders count voluntary, high-quality pre-k among their top education reform and economic development strategies. Pre-k played a prominent role in applications from 12 of the 16 states selected as Phase 1 finalists for Race to the Top competitive grants to promote school reform, and the report explores these and other creative state strategies to support early education using federal resources from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Research shows children who complete quality pre-k programs enter school more prepared cognitively, emotionally and socially, are less likely to be held back or need special education services and are more likely to complete high school and become successful and productive adults. States without pre-k programs miss out on these short- and long-term benefits.

This year's Leadership Matters, with funding trend data, neighboring state comparisons and related news links, is available at www.preknow.org/leadershipmatters/tn.cfm .



As you've likely seen in the news media, the state of Tennessee is facing an $80 million budget shortfall. Over the next few weeks, the Tennessee General Assembly will be working to fill that budget gap by possibly making cuts to existing state-funded programs. It is very likely that the state's Voluntary Pre-K program will be targeted for cuts, and existing pre-K classrooms could be at risk.

We will notify you as soon as the alternative budget proposals have been released by the legislature. Meanwhile, please watch your e-mail for additional information about possible cuts to pre-K classrooms and instructions for contacting your legislators.

There are 18,000 Tennessee children enrolled in the state's pre-K program and another 3,000 are on the waiting list. Cutting pre-K classrooms is not an option. Pre-K must be protected.


March 30, 2010
By Barbara Holden

A new government report indicates Tennessee's pre-kindergarten education program is doing what its supporters intended -- getting children prepared to learn and thrive in kindergarten and first grade.

Conducted for the Tennessee Comptroller's Office of Research and Education Accountability, the report suggests that students who attend state-funded pre-kindergarten classes performed better in the first two years of school because of the experience.

"The report confirms what we have said all along -- Pre-K is successful in preparing children for kindergarten and that preparation lasts beyond kindergarten and the first grade," says Diane R. Neighbors, chair of the Tennessee Alliance for Early Education. "Even better, the report says that some positive effects associated with Pre-K participation may extend beyond the second grade."

This should be comforting news to some parents who worry that children are starting school too early. The positive results prove that the educational environment around even young children can be very nurturing. Read full article here.

Barbara Holden is a director at the Urban Child Institute, a Greater Memphis organization dedicated to promoting early childhood development. The Commercial Appeal is a partner with the Urban Child Institute in this effort to help parents and other care givers learn skills that nurture and educate the minds of infants and children. For more information, go to theurbanchildinstitute.org or dial 211 for the Public Library and Information Center.


March 24, 2010
Source: Daily News Journal

Editor’s note: The following DNJ editorial from April 2, 2007 remains a fitting tribute to Ruth Bowdoin, who died Monday.

Ruth Bowdoin pioneered preschool efforts in 1969 when she drove her “Classroom on Wheels” school bus into some of Murfreesboro’s poorest neighborhoods to provide educational opportunities to youngsters and, in turn, their parents.

Since then, prekindergarten has blossomed in Murfreesboro City and Rutherford County schools, providing hundreds of children the chance to start developing their minds and their social skills at an early age.

We support their efforts, in addition to initiatives by Gov. Phil Bredesen, to start the educational process at an earlier age, especially with children whose families might not stress learning.

It’s much more than glorified day care. It’s a time when children can prepare for kindergarten through literacy and language growth all overseen by a certified teacher while also learning how to play with other children and become a little more independent while away from their parents. Read full article here.


March 23, 2010
Source: TimesFreePress.com

Nearly one in five kindergartners head to Hamilton County classrooms without any formal child care or prekindergarten program, and those who need it the most are twice as likely to miss out, a local study says.

On Monday, the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies released its first report on the education experiences students have before starting kindergarten in Hamilton County.

Forty percent of students whose mothers did not earn a high school diploma -- those labeled by researchers as most likely to not be prepared for school -- did not attend any pre-k or formal child care program.

"Kindergarten is the new first grade," she said. "So if they're starting out behind ..."

The report states that there also are far fewer Hispanics taking advantage of child care or pre-k as compared with white or black students.

Among children 3 years old and younger, 13.3 percent of Hispanic children participated in preschool or child care compared with 44.2 percent of whites and 49.1 percent of blacks. When kindergartners were between 3 and 5 years old, 50.5 percent of Hispanics, 78 percent of whites and 83.4 percent of blacks participated in child care, according to the report. Read full article here.


March 22, 2010
Source: TheChattanoogan.com

At a press conference at Calvin Donaldson Elementary School, the Hamilton County Department of Education and the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies released the results of a first-ever survey of parents of children registering for kindergarten in Hamilton County.

The survey of 2,363 parents found that overall 19.5% of children were beginning school without any past participation in child care or preschool programs. But children whose mothers had less than a high school education – among those most at risk of not being ready for school – were more than twice as likely (41.7%) not to have participated in a child care or preschool program: 28.1% of children of parents with a high school degree or GED had not participated in a program, compared to just 9.5% of children with parents with a college degree.

The survey, conducted by the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies, found that participation rates in child care programs were lowest for children during their first years. Nearly 60% of all children had not participated in a child care program between birth and their third birthday. Again, children most at risk based on maternal education were the least likely to have participated in child care at an early age. Among children between the ages of 0 to 3, only 17.3% of children with mothers who lacked a high school diploma were in a preschool or child care program, compared to an overall participation rate of 43.6% and a participation rate for mothers with a college degree of nearly 60%.

“The research is clear that early intervention programs for young children who are at risk can help them overcome other disadvantages that may cause them to start kindergarten not ready for school,” said David Eichenthal, President and CEO of the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies. “Our study shows that in Hamilton County, many children most at risk are least likely to benefit from those programs.” Read full article here.


Following is a statement from Diane Neighbors, chair of the Tennessee Alliance for Early Education, regarding the report issued March 9, 2010, by Strategic Research Group.

The SRG report confirms what we have said all along – pre-K is successful in preparing children for kindergarten and that preparation lasts beyond kindergarten and the first grade. In fact, SRG acknowledges in the report’s general summary that the “report provides the first indication, however, that some positive effects associated with Pre-K participation may extend beyond the second grade.”

Also of interest, SRG makes “the assumption that the Pre-K and non-Pre-K groups ‘started out’ at a similar point prior to the opportunity to participate in Pre-K” (Page 29). This is simply not true. If Tennessee’s children all started out at the same point, pre-K would not be necessary. Again, the point of the program is to create a level academic playing field for at-risk students.

Make no mistake that pre-K is a long-term investment. Children coming unprepared to first grade is a recipe for academic disaster down the road. Tennessee is currently a national leader in providing pre-K to at-risk children. It would be a shame to retreat from that leadership position, and it would clearly impact any other educational reform efforts at the K-12 level. We urge the General Assembly to maintain current pre-K funding levels in order to give 18,000 Tennessee children a fighting chance for academic success.


Copyright © 2011. Tennessee Alliance for Early Education. All Rights Reserved.