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Ensure pre-K quality in West Virginia

West Virginians can be proud of one important aspect of our public school system. In comparison to many other states, we have done an excellent job with pre-kindergarten programs for children.

So successful is our pre-K program for 4-year-olds that, during a visit to the state, U.S. Secretary of Education John King referred to West Virginia as “a model for the country.”

Indeed, we have done well in allocating resources for pre-K programs and making them accessible to children and their parents. Pre-K in public schools is free to all 4-year-olds. The state also supports the program in many private institutions, including early learning centers.

Throughout the state, 15,106 children are enrolled in pre-K programs (1,177 of them are in the six Northern Panhandle counties). Those children are getting a head start on their educations.

Enrollment could be better. Not all parents think starting school at 4 years of age is appropriate. Some prefer providing a foundation for education at home.

Still, as King recognized, we are doing good work in pre-K education in the Mountain State.

Not to throw cold water on a reason we have to be happy about public education, but our very success in establishing pre-K programs and attracting children to them argues in favor of taking a look at quality.

Pre-K programs are not mere babysitting services. The state has strict requirements for them. Just like in higher grades, teachers must be certified.

And here in our area, we have heard good things about pre-K programs. They really seem to be working.

Still, it may be wise to take a look at pre-K in West Virginia, to evaluate whether how it is being handled is working as well as it should. Perhaps examining pre-K in other states could help. Checking in with teachers in kindergarten and higher grades to hear what they have to say about pre-K also would be a good idea.

If fine-tuning is needed, by all means, it should be undertaken to make what clearly is an excellent program even better.

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