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PRE4CLE making good progress, report says

PRE4CLE has made significant progress in expanding Cleveland families’ access to high-quality preschool, and children are showing the benefits, the providers network says in its first annual report.

CMSD and private operators have banded together through PRE4CLE to make sure children are prepared when they enter kindergarten. The network is part of The Cleveland Plan, a sweeping set of education reforms designed to carry students from preschool to college and career.

Here are some of the highlights from the report, which was released Wednesday:

• PRE4CLE added 1,215 high-quality seats in 2014-15, putting the network more than 60 percent of the way to its goal of securing 2,000 more seats in the first two years.
• Enrollment in high-quality preschool increased by 10 percent, a first-year increase that the report says exceeds those produced by some other nationally recognized programs.
• 80 percent of children in PRE4CLE classrooms are on track to be ready for kindergarten, based on testing by independent consultants.
• PRE4CLE has raised more than $9 million to carry out its plans. Funding came from CMSD, Cuyahoga County and the Cleveland, George Gund and PNC foundations.
• The network used county grants to create four classrooms spanning three neighborhoods -- Glenville, Union-Miles and Buckeye-Shaker Square – where high-quality seats were found to be in short supply. In all, PRE4CLE added 21 high-quality classrooms.

CMSD Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon and Marcia Egbert, a senior program officer at the George Gund Foundation, co-chair the Cleveland Early Childhood Compact, which led planning for PRE4CLE. In a letter accompanying the report, they said the network’s accomplishments have surpassed their expectations.

“We made some big strides in our first year, due entirely to the providers and partners who have taken up the banner of high-quality preschool with enthusiasm and expertise, and the families who joined with PRE4CLE to provide a strong start for their children,” they said in the letter.

But the need remains great: Though 4,080 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in high-quality preschools, that represents only a third of the total. An estimated 30 percent are not enrolled in preschool at all, missing out on the benefits at a time when research says the majority of brain formation takes place.

PRE4CLE expands access by helping operators open new classrooms and gaining state certification as high quality. To qualify, sites have to earn at least three stars on the five-scale used by Ohio’s Step Up To Quality program.

CMSD operates 59 preschool sites and plans to add more. The District is rated at five stars as a system, but individual schools are gradually going through the ratings process. So far, 10 have been rated and all have achieved five stars, including four that received notice of their scores this month.

PRE4CLE has expanded outreach to make families aware of the importance and availability of high-quality preschool. “We are engaging the community in a much more robust way,” Executive Director Katie Kelly said.

The network launched a website this week and is developing search capabilities that Kelly said will “make it easy for families to find what they need.”

PRE4CLE has drawn national attention. U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro praised the network during a visit in October 2014; in December of that year, President Obama singled out PRE4CLE during a White House summit on early-childhood education.