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February 16, 2022 / Blog

Choosing the Ideal Public or Private Pre-K Program for Your Child

Finding the ideal pre-K program is a unique process for every family – whether it’s a public or private pre-K, there are many things to consider when evaluating the options.

Pre-K programs not only prepare children for kindergarten, they set children up for lifelong academic success. These learning environments must make children feel safe, joyful and confident in their academic and social-emotional development for optimal results.

But with such a wide variety of programs out there – how do you know which is the right fit for your child? It is helpful to start with a list of goals, priorities and values you seek in your ideal preschool.

Safety first

Above all, safety should be the number one priority when deciding on a public or private pre-K. An online search can show school testimonials and critical incident reports on most state websites.

Teachers and peers affect a child’s feeling of safety as well. Safety leads to trust, and trust leads to learning. A negative encounter with a person or place will directly impact a child’s ability to learn. Ask if children can meet the teacher and experience the classroom as part of the decision-making process.

Evaluate the public or private pre-K teaching strategies

An important measure of a public or private pre-K is the optimization of the classroom for learning and teaching strategies. An optimized classroom uses systems that sustain an orderly and joyful environment, enhance academic skills and further children’s social and emotional development.

Things to ask:

  • Are there clear classroom rules?
  • Do they follow consistent routines?
  • How do they ease children into transitions?
  • What behavior management strategies do they have in place?
  • Is the physical environment safe, inviting and accessible?
  • How do they incorporate social-emotional learning in their teaching?
  • Do they monitor and address signs of stress?
  • Are teachers required and have time for authentic assessment of students?

Focus on the entire child

School readiness goes beyond skills and knowledge. Pre-K programs should be well-rounded and focus on the entire child.

Successful preschool programs:

  • Address all developmental domains (social-emotional, cognitive, physical and language)
  • Provide differentiated instruction and intentional teaching
  • Assess progress
  • Prepare children for kindergarten transition

Children learn best when teachers focus on their social-emotional, cognitive, physical and language needs. There should be plenty of time for play and accommodations for children’s talents and interests. Preschools should also support dual language instruction with anti-bias environments and a focus on cultural responsiveness.

Ultimately, choosing a public or private pre-K depends on the options available and finding programs that meet families’ goals, priorities and shared values.