Carls­bad’s young schol­ars join the pre-K club

Funds from state dra­mat­i­cally ex­pand com­mu­nity’s early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion ca­pac­ity

Albuquerque Journal - - OP-ED - BY DR. GREG RO­DRIGUEZ SU­PER­IN­TEN­DENT, CARLS­BAD MU­NIC­I­PAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Think back to your first class­room ex­pe­ri­ence. You may re­call en­ter­ing your kinder­garten class­room, the smell of crayons, and the bright ABC’s hang­ing on the class­room walls. For many kinder­gart­ners across the coun­try, the re­al­ity is that many en­ter with­out know­ing their ABCs or even the names of pri­mary col­ors. Carls­bad has been no dif­fer­ent—un­til to­day. To­day our youngest schol­ars are join­ing the thou­sands of other New Mex­ico 4-year olds who will be able to en­roll in state-funded prekinder­garten, oth­er­wise known as pre-K.

The New Mex­ico pre-K pro­gram is a vol­un­tary preschool pro­gram cre­ated by the Pre-Kinder­garten Act of 2005. Chil­dren who have reached their fourth birth­day by Septem­ber 1 are el­i­gi­ble to at­tend.

In my first year as su­per­in­ten­dent, I am proud to usher in the era of Carls­bad join­ing the pre-K club — a non-ex­clu­sive group of schools and dis­tricts, where all have the op­por­tu­nity to join. For Carls­bad, this has been sev­eral years in the mak­ing. This is some­thing that we weren’t ready for five years ago — but with our part­ner­ship with the state and the lead­er­ship of our lo­cal com­mu­nity, we got there.

And now we’re ready to soar. More than 350 stu­dents can now en­roll for the first time in Carls­bad pre-K.

Gov. Su­sana Mar­tinez, the Leg­is­la­ture and the New Mex­ico Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment are mak­ing a big in­vest­ment in the tini­est of Carls­bad’s Cave­men — and in­vest­ing more than $30 mil­lion of tax­payer money this year to­ward cre­at­ing or ex­pand­ing pub­lic pre-K class­rooms to help pro­vide more of New Mex­ico’s chil­dren an op­por­tu­nity to suc­ceed in life.

Be­cause of the ad­di­tional in­vest­ment, last week’s an­nounce­ment marks the first time that Carls­bad, Sil­ver, Clo­vis and many oth­ers will have pre-K. More of Carls­bad’s lit­tlest Cave­men will now have the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in the district’s pre-K pro­gram thanks to an award from the NMPED of more than a mil­lion dol­lars. A mil­lion-dol­lar award is a no­table one, and we ex­tend our ap­pre­ci­a­tion to the gov­er­nor, sec­re­tary-des­ig­nate of Ed­u­ca­tion, and the Leg­is­la­ture for mak­ing it hap­pen for our com­mu­nity. This dra­mat­i­cally ex­pands Carls­bad’s early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion ca­pac­ity — and our com­mu­nity is ready to carry this re­spon­si­bil­ity for­ward and grow over time with the high­est of qual­ity.

Over the next five years, we should de­liver on a plan to grow re­spon­si­bly to full cov­er­age, based on de­mand. It won’t hap­pen overnight — don’t let any­one tell you that it will — but it is pos­si­ble to grow a pro­gram like this with de­lib­er­ate­ness and qual­ity.

As has been said, an in­vest­ment in high­qual­ity pre-K en­sures that Carls­bad’s stu­dents are en­ter­ing kinder­garten ready to learn by pre­par­ing chil­dren to en­ter school with much-needed emo­tional, aca­demic and so­cial skills. In ad­di­tion, chil­dren who at­tend pre-K de­velop self-reg­u­la­tion skills and gain con­fi­dence as they mas­ter aca­demic con­cepts and learn to co­op­er­ate with their peers. While there is no sub­sti­tute for high-qual­ity school lead­er­ship, im­prov­ing teach­ing and learn­ing, and be­ing datadriven, the ex­tra year of school while the child’s brain is still de­vel­op­ing cer­tainly helps the cause. It’s a small in­vest­ment — but the re­turn is great.

As the su­per­in­ten­dent for the Carls­bad Mu­nic­i­pal Schools, I am thrilled about our op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of the Carls­bad ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem as we pre­pare fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. The re­search shows less than one in five chil­dren read­ing be­low grade level in third grade will go on to earn a col­lege de­gree. A re­cent study of New Jer­sey showed chil­dren liv­ing in poverty who en­roll in high­qual­ity pre-K and are now in fifth grade have nar­rowed the achieve­ment gap. This can work for Carls­bad, too.

With this ad­di­tional in­vest­ment in early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion, Carls­bad looks to build upon a tra­di­tion of in­no­va­tive and cre­ative so­lu­tions that max­i­mize learn­ing for its chil­dren. Our doors are open to an even younger group of schol­ars, and the fu­ture is bright.

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