To the Editor:
Regarding your article on Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s proposed Preschool for All program, which would provide access to prekindergarten for all 3- and 4-year-olds in Illinois (“Illinois Governor’s Plan for 3-Year-Olds Drawing Attention,” March 15, 2006):
The governor’s plan is drawn from recommendations by the Illinois Early Learning Council. When asked to rank the components of a high-quality early-childhood-education system, the council identified well-qualified teachers as first, and well-qualified program administrators as second, among the many competing priorities.
Unfortunately, the governor’s plan addresses only one of these priorities. While it calls for teachers with bachelor’s degrees and specialized training in early-childhood education, it is silent about the need for well-qualified program administrators. This is a serious omission. The proposal allows for an expansion of early education in Head Start and other community-based organizations, as well as in public schools. In Illinois, a director of a community-based program is not required to have a degree at any level, or any specialized training in leadership and management.
Research has shown that to maintain a work environment that develops and retains highly skilled teachers, strong leadership and effective management at the program level are essential. As the gatekeepers to quality, early-childhood directors set the standards and expectations for staff performance, manage other facets of operations, and ensure program accountability.
I applaud Illinois’ governor for seeking to provide access to early learning for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the state and to give families a choice of high-quality preschool options. Since the Preschool for All initiative requires that prekindergarten classroom teachers in all settings be well-qualified, common sense tells us that all participating programs’ administrators need to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and specialized training in administration to effectively supervise and lead their teaching staffs.
Teri N. Talan
Director of Research and Public Policy
McCormick Tribune Center for
Early Childhood Leadership
A version of this article appeared in the April 05, 2006 edition of Education Week as Illinois Pre-K Plan Omits Administrators’ Training