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Focusing on a variety of education, health and youth development issues of importance to children and families in Pennsylvania.

The Competitive Advantage of High-Quality Pre-k

Access to high-quality pre-kindergarten isn’t just an education issue - it’s an economic development issue.

Research shows high-quality pre-k helps build a stronger workforce, boost employment rates and fuel higher lifetime earnings. This means states that prioritize investments in high-quality pre-k enjoy a competitive advantage over states that fail to do so. As it turns out, Pennsylvania is surrendering that competitive advantage to many of its neighbors.

The latest report from the Pre-K for PA campaign finds most of the states that border Pennsylvania – Maryland, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia – are making high-quality pre-k available to a larger percentage of their 3- and 4-year-olds. That means they stand to see greater returns on this proven early learning investment.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children became a founding member of the statewide, non-partisan Pre-K for PA campaign because we want to help turn this situation around and make the commonwealth an undisputed leader in access to high-quality pre-k. We realize increasing pre-k access requires additional state investments, but we also realize all of us have too much to lose if we let Pennsylvania’s young learners lag behind.

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Budget Time = Time to Invest in Pre-k

We know high-quality pre-k works to help prepare children for a lifetime of learning and success. But high-quality pre-k serves far too few children in Pennsylvania. That’s because the amount of public funds available for pre-k is only enough to help about 1 in 6 of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds access high-quality programs.

As lawmakers in Harrisburg work to craft a spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, help us remind them to make high-quality pre-k a priority in the state budget by sharing this graphic on social media or in your emails …

And share this information with your elected officials …

  • Investment in pre-k saves taxpayers’ money in the long term by reducing the need for special education and remedial instruction, and increasing the rates of graduation and college enrollment.
  • Every $1 invested in pre-k generates $1.79 in local economic activity and returns up to $17 in long-term public savings through reduced costs to our schools and society.
  • Other states - including many of Pennsylvania’s neighbors - are making high-quality pre-k availability on a broader scale, meaning they will see greater benefits. Pennsylvania is lagging behind. The time to invest is now.

And if you know someone who hasn’t already signed on as a supporter of the statewide, non-partisan Pre-K for PA campaign, please share this message with them.

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The Difference Pre-k Makes

Across the commonwealth this month, Pennsylvania’s high school seniors are proudly donning caps and gowns and standing with their classmates and teachers as they accept their diplomas – a huge accomplishment.

We know (thanks to volumes of research) that high-quality pre-k is a solid foundation for a great education. High-quality pre-k greatly increases the likelihood of high school graduation and college enrollment, in turn leading to stronger employment opportunities and increased lifetime earning potential.

That’s why the work we are doing as part of the statewide, non-partisan Pre-K for PA campaign is so important.

We are proud of the commonwealth’s high school graduates and equally proud of the support people like you are showing in the effort to increase access to high-quality pre-k for every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania. With your support, we can help ensure Pennsylvania will have many more high school graduates to celebrate in the future – graduates that benefitted from high-quality-pre-k.

If you know someone who hasn’t already signed on as a supporter of the Pre-K for PA campaign, please forward this message to them.

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Former PA Governors Push for Pre-k

These days, there seem to be few things the major political parties agree on, but two former Pennsylvania governors - one a Democrat, the other a Republican - came together this week to speak up for something that has broad, bi-partisan support: high-quality pre-k.

On Monday, former governors Ed Rendell and Mark Schweiker made joint appearances in Erie and Philadelphia to speak about the urgent need for Pennsylvania to boost its investments in high-quality pre-k so more young learners can benefit. Currently, about 244,000 of the commonwealth’s 3- and 4-year-olds lack access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-k. That’s nearly a quarter of a million missed opportunities that impact the entire commonwealth – from our schools to our communities to our workforce.

“How you treat 3- and 4-year-olds will have everything to do with how they fare in an academic sense in grades 3, 4 and so on,” Schweiker said. “There is a direct connection between what goes on when they’re age 3 and what they'll do later in life, let no one tell you otherwise.”

“Study after study shows the proven benefits of quality early learning,” Rendell said. “From lower dropout and crime rates to stronger communities and businesses, the reasons to expand access are mounting.”

These former governors are hardly alone in recognizing Pennsylvania must do more. That’s why support for high-quality pre-k is one issue that receives enthusiastic support from Republican and Democratic voters alike. In fact, 67 percent of Pennsylvania voters across party lines support expanding access to high-quality pre-k programs.

We might not all be former governors, but we all have a voice in the future of our children and our commonwealth. Make your voice heard by joining Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and other in the statewide, non-partisan Pre-K for PA campaign.

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Keystone Exams: 5 Things to Know

Many Pennsylvania high school students have taken Keystone Exams in Algebra I, Literature or Biology in recent weeks as they wrapped up their school year.

Keystone Exams are a graduation requirement for the class of 2017 and beyond – a multi-year timetable that will give students and educators an opportunity to adjust as high schools move away from the 11th grade PSSAs and toward the course-specific Keystone Exams. Of course, changes like this often raise concerns and occasional misconceptions, so here are five key points about Keystone Exams you should know:

1. Keystone Exams are not “more tests.” The exams replaced the 11th grade reading, math and science PSSAs, which often were administered to students years after they had taken the coursework. Because Keystones Exams are taken immediately after students have taken the course, the information is fresher and more relevant.

2. Keystone Exams are not “high stakes” tests. A student can re-take a Keystone Exam (or part of an exam) multiple times until proficiency is shown. If a student doesn’t pass the Keystone Exams after multiple attempts, the student can show proficiency through other options, such as project-based assessments, or receive a waiver from the chief school administrator.

3. Keystone Exams will not lead to “teaching to the test.” Keystone Exams are aligned with the recently enacted PA Core Standards in English and math and with the state’s biology standards. If school officials design curriculum to align to the standards and teachers instruct to ensure students achieve to those standards, then aligned assessments (the Keystone Exams) simply measure students’ knowledge of the standards. “Teaching to the test” is not a valid concern.

4. Keystone Exams are not a federal idea or mandate. The exams were developed in Pennsylvania for our students, with input from Pennsylvania educators and field-tested in the commonwealth to ensure they truly measure the commonwealth’s standards.

5. Keystone Exams raise the bar for our students. Each year, tens of thousands of Pennsylvania students receive diplomas despite failing to demonstrate proficiency in reading and math. Many of these students go on to postsecondary education and have to enroll in (and pay for) non-credit bearing remedial classes. Keystone Exams are a critical part of our efforts to raise our expectations and help our students achieve to higher levels.

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An Early Childhood Action Day Update

In case you missed it, hundreds of early learning advocates rallied at the state Capitol on Tuesday as part of Early Childhood Action Day. Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children was proud to be among those speaking up for stronger investments in our youngest learners.

Action day participants included members of two statewide, non-partisan coalitions that PPC helped found.

The Pre-K for PA coalition launched in January with 10 founding organizations and has grown in just four months to include 340 supporting organizations and more than 5,500 individual supporters. The campaign has a presence in every corner of the commonwealth as it works to ensure every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania has access to high-quality pre-k.

PPC also is a founding partner of the new Early Learning PA coalition, which formally launched as part of the action day activities. The campaign is advocating for a comprehensive early childhood system that ensures that Pennsylvania’s children, particularly its most vulnerable, have access to the education and support they need to enter school ready to learn.

We’re committed to these campaigns and their goals because we know our children only get one chance to benefit from quality early learning programs – and it’s a chance we can’t afford to squander. Study after study shows the long-term benefits of high-quality early learning opportunities, from increased high school graduation rates to lower crime rates to a stronger Pennsylvania overall.

If you haven’t already done so, we invite you to join these campaigns and help us elevate the public policy discussion about early learning and its importance to our kids and our commonwealth. If you’ve already joined, please share this message with others and ask them to lend their voices, too.

And as always, thanks for all you do for our children.

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Momentum Builds Behind ‘Pre-K for PA’

Thanks to the support and hard work of people like you, the statewide Pre-K for PA campaign (of which Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is a founding member) was able to exceed its goal of signing on 5,000 supporters by primary election day. This base of support enables us to send a strong message to the candidates for governor and the Pennsylvania General Assembly that access to high-quality pre-k is a top priority for Pennsylvania voters across the political spectrum.

Today, the Pre-K for PA campaign issued an open letter to the Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidates explaining how much access to high-quality pre-k means to Pennsylvania’s voters.

The letter notes that Pennsylvania was labeled as “losing ground” in pre-k access in the latest State of Preschool Yearbook issued just last week by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). Pennsylvania now ranks only 30th out of 41 states in providing access to pre-k for 4-year-olds, down from 28th a year earlier. We can do better.

As we head toward the general election, help us continue to remind candidates to keep the youngest citizens – those who cannot vote – at the center of their campaign. And if you haven’t done so already, please add your voice to the Pre-K for PA campaign.

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PA ‘Losing Ground’ On Pre-k Access

Pennsylvania has slipped in the national rankings for pre-kindergarten access, according to the latest State of Preschool Yearbook issued this week by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

Pennsylvania now ranks 30th out of 41 states in providing pre-k for access for 4-year-olds, down from 28th a year ago. And we rank 14th in access for 3-year-olds, down from 12th a year ago. NIEER described Pennsylvania as “losing ground” on pre-k access, noting a little more than 3,000 pre-k enrollments were lost in a year.

“Pennsylvania has faltered in its commitment to quality pre-k in recent years, but we are hopeful that new attention will be given to early education in the state’s gubernatorial race, eliciting renewed commitments from the state’s leaders,” said NIEER Director Steve Barnett.

We know Pennsylvania needs to step up its investments in high-quality pre-k, which is why Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children helped launch the statewide Pre-K for PA campaign earlier this year. The reality is, many other states are more aggressively investing in pre-k because they know it has a proven, long-term return on investment. Pennsylvania needs to pick up the pace or risk falling further behind.

We hope you’ll join us and become a supporter of the Pre-K for PA campaign. You can sign up by visiting prekforpa.org.

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Thank a Teacher

This is Teacher Appreciation Week, a time to show gratitude for the passion and commitment of teachers across Pennsylvania and the nation. Teachers have an incredibly important and challenging job. They work tirelessly each and every day to create opportunities for students to learn and to prepare them for a lifetime of success.

Effective teachers are critically important in helping all students achieve Pennsylvania’s academic standards. Teachers have a profound impact on our students, communities and our nation, sparking students’ imaginations and inspiring and motivating them to do their best.   

Please join Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children in honoring and thanking the commonwealth’s educators for their dedication to our young people. And please take the time to thank a teacher during Teacher Appreciation Week.

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Support Pre-k for Mother’s Day

Children only have one chance to be a preschooler, and there is no substitute for what high-quality pre-k offers: an opportunity to build the foundation for a lifetime of learning and success.

But for many families, the cost of high-quality pre-k is just too high. In fact, the annual cost can be as high as a family’s rent, mortgage or college tuition. For other families, the lack of high-quality options or other issues of access prevent their children from benefiting from the tremendous benefits pre-k provides.

Only 1 in 6 of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds have access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-k, leaving nearly a quarter of a million young learners missing out. Those missed opportunities are the reason the statewide Pre-K for PA campaign was launched. The campaign is working to ensure high-quality pre-k can be available and affordable to every Pennsylvania family that wants it for their child.

As we approach Mother’s Day on May 11, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is asking moms across Pennsylvania to join the Pre-K for PA campaign and show their support for increasing access to high-quality pre-k for all Pennsylvania children. (Of course, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles and others are encouraged to sign up, too.)

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