At the 2/27/12 budget meeting of the Portland Public Schools Board, Harriett Adair, Director of Pre-Kindergarten Programs, gave a fifteen minute power point presentation on “Early Learners” in PPS. Her written materials are here. The above video shows Adair, with questions from Board members Ruth Adkins and Trudy Sargent, and focuses on what I think should be another priority for PPS: the integration and expansion of early childhood programs into the PPS system. Let me make several points about this effort:
(1) Foreign language immersion programs should begin as young as possible, which means some, probably many, early childhood programs should be in foreign languages (and not just Spanish) and feed into the kindergarten immersion programs. Nowhere in Adair’s materials or presentation were foreign languages mentioned.
(2) I support shifting resources from upper grades to early childhood learning. The Board could, and should, follow my suggestions (here) on saving money at the high school level with online courses and shift those resources (if still available after general cuts) to early childhood programs. And they should do this as rapidly as possible.
Note: I made some rough estimates of possible saving statewide from shifting to one online course (independent from bricks-and-mortar schools) for ten percent of the high school population (here). Applying those same rough estimates to PPS yields $472,188 to $867,844 to be shifted from high school programs to early learning (or lost to general cuts). (43,314 students divided by 12 times four times 0.1 (equals 1,444) time $327 or $601)
(3) I support Ruth Adkins effort to have an early learning plan (program) as an integral part of PPS. And I support making space for early learning programs part of PPS facilities plan.
(4) One wonders why space for early learning programs was not considered during the recent enrollment balancing process. Like planning for foreign language immersion programs, space planning for early learning programs was left out of that process.
Strategically, PPS need to be making three simultaneous shifts: to stronger foreign language programs (immersion programs, strategic languages, high school study abroad programs), to more online offering both to save funds and to open opportunities (including a wider variety of foreign languages), and to more and better early learning programs. Right now PPS is doing little on any of these.
Update 2/28/12: Harriet Adair emailed me to say (in part): "We do have three all spanish classrooms at the Head Start Sacajawea site whose students should feed into Rigler and Scott's Spanish Immersion programs, a Japanese language PK that feeds into the Richmond program and a Spanish PK that feeds into the Beach Spanish Immersion."