The Dallas Independent School District just earned a gold medal for its high-quality prekindergarten program. The National Institute for Early Education Reseach studied 40 different big city pre-K programs across the country to issue the ratings.
To earn a gold rating from the institute, a pre-K program has to meet at least eight of 10 quality standards, and Dallas did. For example, lead pre-K teachers are specially trained to teach preschoolers, and the staff-to-student ratio is 1-to-10 or better.
GG Weisenfeld, assistant research professor at the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, says Dallas also excelled in some of the toughest categories, like making sure teachers get professional staff development.
"That requires not only training but also coaching, which is an expensive element," Weisenfeld said. "So all teachers are required to participate in coaching. And then having individualized annual professional development plans, and Dallas does that."
Dallas failed two categories: pre-K classes didn't always have qualified assistant teachers, and classes often had too many kids. Weisenfeld said overall, this study looked at the 2017-2018 school year. That year, the number of pre-K students enrolled in Texas went up, even though state funding declined.
"When dollars fall out, one of two things happens: either few children are enrolled or the quality of the program is not as good," Weisenfeld said. "When you take away standards — and that sometimes when you see class size increase — that just lowers the quality of the classroom or program."