Think back to your first classroom experience. You may recall entering your kindergarten classroom, the smell of crayons, and the bright ABC’s hanging on the classroom walls. For many kindergartners across the country, the reality is that many enter without knowing their ABCs or even the names of primary colors. Carlsbad has been no different – until today. Today our youngest scholars are joining the thousands of other New Mexico 4-year olds who will be able to enroll in state-funded pre-kindergarten, otherwise known as pre-K.
The New Mexico pre-K program is a voluntary preschool program created by the Pre-Kindergarten Act of 2005. Children who have reached their fourth birthday by September 1 are eligible to attend.
In my first year as superintendent, I am proud to usher in the era of Carlsbad joining the pre-K club – a non-exclusive group of schools and districts, where all have the opportunity to join. For Carlsbad, this has been several years in the making. This is something that we weren’t ready for five years ago – but with our partnership with the state and the leadership of our local community, we got there.
And now we’re ready to soar. More than 350 students can now enroll for the first time in Carlsbad pre-K.
Gov. Susana Martinez, the Legislature and the New Mexico Public Education Department are making a big investment in the tiniest of Carlsbad’s Cavemen – and investing more than $30 million of taxpayer money this year toward creating or expanding public pre-K classrooms to help provide more of New Mexico’s children an opportunity to succeed in life.
Because of the additional investment, last week’s announcement marks the first time that Carlsbad, Silver, Clovis and many others will have pre-K. More of Carlsbad’s littlest Cavemen will now have the opportunity to participate in the district’s pre-K program thanks to an award from the NMPED of more than a million dollars. A million-dollar award is a notable one, and we extend our appreciation to the governor, secretary-designate of Education, and the Legislature for making it happen for our community. This dramatically expands Carlsbad’s early childhood education capacity – and our community is ready to carry this responsibility forward and grow over time with the highest of quality.
Over the next five years, we should deliver on a plan to grow responsibly to full coverage, based on demand. It won’t happen overnight – don’t let anyone tell you that it will – but it is possible to grow a program like this with deliberateness and quality.
As has been said, an investment in high-quality pre-K ensures that Carlsbad’s students are entering kindergarten ready to learn by preparing children to enter school with much-needed emotional, academic and social skills. In addition, children who attend pre-K develop self-regulation skills and gain confidence as they master academic concepts and learn to cooperate with their peers. While there is no substitute for high-quality school leadership, improving teaching and learning, and being data-driven, the extra year of school while the child’s brain is still developing certainly helps the cause. It’s a small investment – but the return is great.
As the superintendent for the Carlsbad Municipal Schools, I am thrilled about our opportunity to expand a critical component of the Carlsbad education system as we prepare future generations. The research shows less than one in five children reading below grade level in third grade will go on to earn a college degree. A recent study of New Jersey showed children living in poverty who enroll in high-quality pre-K and are now in fifth grade have narrowed the achievement gap. This can work for Carlsbad, too.
With this additional investment in early childhood education, Carlsbad looks to build upon a tradition of innovative and creative solutions that maximize learning for its children. Our doors are open to an even younger group of scholars, and the future is bright.