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The Impact of UPK on Preschool Special Ed and Preschool LRE: Are We Squandering An Opportunity or Ca


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Title: The Impact of UPK on Preschool Special Ed and Preschool LRE: Are We Squandering An Opportunity or Ca

The Impact of UPK on Preschool Special Ed and
Preschool LREAre We Squandering An Opportunity
or Capitalizing on It?
  • Abby J. Cohen
  • Region IX State TA Specialist, NCCIC
  • November 2006

The National Child Care Information Center
A service of the Child Care Bureau,
Office of Family Assistance, Administration for
Children and Families, DHHS
Laying the Groundwork for a Discussion
  • Lay out a simplified history on how we got to
    where we are
  • Review some of what is now occurring
  • Discussion What can we do to ensure that the
    potential opportunity is capitalized on and not
  • I come from the child care/prek side correct and
    add to my understanding of special ed side and
    Head Start side this is a work in progress!

Publicly funded pre-k continues to grow
  • Increased knowledge about social and economic
    benefits of high quality pre-k has fueled growth
  • A major breakthrough in expansion occurred in the
    last ten years or so as there came to be support
    for a mixed (public and private) delivery system

The current publicly funded pre-k landscape
  • State pre-ks served 801,902 children in 2004-05.
  • State pre-k has now surpassed federal Head Start
    for number of 4 year old children served.
  • 17 of nations 4 year olds now being served.
  • Source NIEER, 2006

Pre-k Landscape
  • Wide variability in the array of standards which
    are applied to pre-k
  • 16 states require teachers to have bachelors
    degrees in all classrooms
  • In 2006 no decreases in prek funding
  • 10 states have no program
  • (Sources NIEER, 2006 Preknow, 2006))

Universal vs. Targeted
  • Still really talking largely about targeted prek
    as opposed to universal few of the states have
    truly universal programs most are targeted to
    at-risk children as defined by each state
  • Issue of significant controversy not so much
    about benefit for all children but whether public
    should pay for children who are not low income
    when benefit is greatest for those at most
  • Nevertheless recognize political advantages, no
    means testing, and benefits to all children

Legal Requirements under IDEA
  • Each public agency shall ensure that a continuum
    of alternative placements is available to meet
    the needs of children with disabilities. 34 CFR

Prek Placement Options
  • The full continuum of alternative placements at
    34 CFR 300.551, including integrated placement
    options, such as community based settings with
    typically developing age peers, must be available
    to preschool children with disabilities.
  • 34 CFR Part 300 Comments to Regs

Preschool LRE
  • Requirements of Least Restrictive Environment
    (LRE) also apply to preschoolers.

History of Preschool Special Ed
  • Unlike K-12 where a formal education system
    existed, the guarantee of a free public education
    (FAPE) to 3-5 year olds (required by 1991-2
    school year) meant that school districts needed
    to find alternative means of serving preschool

History (contd)
  • Many districts created segregated settings
    because there were no programs in the public
    school available to typically developing
  • General lack of knowledge about settings outside
    of school districts
  • When known, concerns about quality, esp. teacher
    qualifications and issues of funding,
    supervision, etc.

  • Regular ed curriculum and access to typically
    developing peer group provide learning
    opportunity unavailable in special ed only
  • LRE provisions of the law
  • Most appropriate in meeting the needs and desires
    of families

Preschool Options
  • Segregated (self-contained) classes began to be
    desegregated (reverse mainstreaming) by
    including typically developing children into
    formerly segregated classrooms
  • Community preschool programs began to be used,
    with itinerant special education services
    provided, or co-teaching, etc.

What benefits could public pre-k offer for LRE
  • Like K-12, publicly funded pre-k offers a
    regular educational placement, often with a
    general curriculum, with early learning standards
  • When children are identified through screening,
    as is often required in pre-k programs, they may
    be able to stay where they are rather than be

Benefits of publicly funded pre-k for LRE
  • Higher staff qualification requirements than
    might be typical in child care settings
  • Often more structured and available opportunities
    for staff development
  • Better ratios than might exist under child care
  • Overall, potential of better quality as a
    foundation on which to build

Benefits (contd)
  • Generally, these programs will have some form of
    assessment for the enrolled children already in
  • Efficient use of resources
  • Q what other benefits?

Potential concerns
  • Targeted as opposed to universal programs may not
    be considered LRE programs targeted to at risk
    of school failure rather than to those of low
    income such as Head Start may not be seen as a
    regular class(see La Grange v. Illinois State
    Bd of Ed, 184 F.3d 912, 1999)
  • Publicly funded pre-k usually is only available
    for one year may result in undesirable
    discontinuity for the child (but note IL and NJ)
  • Report Prekindergartners Left Behind Expulsion
    Rates in State Prekindergartens may be an
    indication about the lack of support and quality
    within programs

Potential Concerns
  • Q What other concerns or issues arise from
    relying on publicly funded prek to serve the
    needs of children with disabilities?

How has it played out?
  • Limited information available what we know from
    documents may not be what goes on on the ground
    Lets share what we know
  • Need for more systematic research about barriers
    and best practices
  • Principles have been developed by Child Care Law
    Center to help guide inclusive pre-k program

Illustrative state New York
  • Students with disabilities can participate in
    UPK programs and receive preschool special
    education programs and services while enrolled in
    UPK programs. A childs IEP can be implemented
    easily within the context of the developmentally
    appropriate UPK program.

New York contd
  • It is recommended that UPK staff participate in
    Committee on Preschool Special Ed (CPSE) meetings
    as the childs teacher or as others who have
    knowledge regarding the child. The UPK
    administrator and/or staff can provide the CPSE
    with valuable information on the learning
    standards addressed in the UPK curriculum.

New York (contd)
  • . . .when preschool children with disabilities
    are enrolled in UPK, funding from the UPK and
    funding available through federal, State and
    county sources for special education, can be used
    to support such arrangements.But doesnt supply
    specifics of funding allocation.
  • Considerations of communication, parent
    participation, and joint staff development

Illustrative State Oklahoma
  • Closest to universal 90 of preschool age
    children attend some form of public pre-k
  • According to Oklahoma, no need for MOUs or
    policies since most prek is offered by school
    districts and children with IEPs are attending
    these programs

Illustrative State Georgia
  • Universal prek 6.5 hour program eligible one
    year only though can make special request to
  • Child eligible for prek and special ed shall not
    be denied services in the prek program.
  • Dual enrollment in public school disabilities
    classes and prek acceptable

Illustrative State WV
  • As settings are established for UPK, it is
    important that children with disabilities are a
    part of the process and have the same options
    available to them as children without
    disabilities. The least restrictive environment
    must be the FIRST consideration for children
    (3-21 years of age). (

Illustrative State NM
  • 5 million pilot for at risk kids serving about
    1500 children
  • Prek Program standards
  • Children with disabilities and developmental
    delays integrated with peer, with supports from
    appropriate service providers

New Mexico (contd)
  • Modifications made in physical and learning
    environments, with supports from appropriate
    service providers
  • Ancillary services (occupational,
    speech/language and/or physical therapy) are
    integrated within regular program activities and
    routines to max. extent appropriate for each
  • Professional in-service training provided that is
    specific to inclusionary practices

Illustrative state NJ
  • New Jersey has two prek programs about 43,000 3
    and 4 yr.olds in Abbott districts
  • Self-assessment validations system for Abbott
  • NJ Office of Special Ed Programs involved in
    revising the SAVS areas and indicators saw that
    related services being offered in pull out model
  • (http//

NJ (contd)
  • There are three distinct areas now on the revised
    SAVS which relate to our issues of concern (in
    addition to assessment and screening)
  • Inclusion
  • Preschool intervention and support
  • Transition

NJ (contd)
  • In each of these areas a number of criteria are
    assessed leads to the development of an
    improvement plan
  • Based on information coming from the SAVS,
    workshops and summer institutes have been held on
    a number of topics related to successful inclusion

Illustrative County Los Angeles (LAUP)
  • LA has taken a different approach neither
    segregated nor wholly integrated
  • Using RFP process to identify model inclusive
    centers of high quality and which meet certain
    criteria. These programs are effectively
    identifying best practices that will help shape
    all programs as UPK moves to scale.

  • Question Will this provide the best of both
    worlds during an interim period or will we be
    recreating another form of segregation or is such
    a hybrid necessary permanently?

  • Some locales have continued to operate two
    separate programs with no thought as to how to
    bring the separate strands together no
    collaborative planning
  • Lack of communication
  • Lack of joint and cross training
  • Continued differences in philosophy

Barriers (2)
  • Insufficient attention to figuring out how
    funding will work
  • Insufficient attention to how staffing will

  • What can we do to ensure that existing publicly
    funded pre-k programs are better utilized as
    potential LRE for preschool children with
  • What can we do to ensure that new pre-k programs
    in the planning phase are designed with inclusion
    in mind?

Resources on Publicly Funded Pre-k

Resources on Preschool LRE
  • (NECTAC Keys
    to Natural Environments and Inclusion)
    _COMMUNITY (OSEP TA Communities Preschool
    LRE-Part B/619 Community)
  • (LRE options)
  • (assessment and
    accountability issues)

National Child Care Information Center
  • Phone 800-616-2242
  • Fax 800-716-2242
  • TTY 800-516-2242
  • E-mail
  • Web site http//
  • Mail 10530 Rosehaven Street, Suite 300,
    Fairfax, VA 22030

Thank You!