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MNPS Looks To Tulsa's Pre-K Success As A Model

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MNPS Looks To Tulsa's Pre-K Success As A Model

CREATED May 14, 2014
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools wants to overhaul its Pre-Kindergarten program. They’re looking to Tulsa, Oklahoma, as an example about what works.

“We have an opportunity with the establishment of these centers to really create some hubs of innovation,” newly appointed Director of Early Learning Innovation, Lisa Wiltshire said.

Metro Schools, in collaboration with Vanderbilt University, is looking to its neighbor to the west.

“There are two places that are at the top of our list in terms of (having) achieved some success in early education and one of them is in Tulsa, Oklahoma," Wiltshire noted.

Oklahoma is one of three states that offer free Pre-K. In Tulsa specifically, researchers agree that it's working.

“We see returns in terms of lower rates of children having to participate in special education and remedial education,” Steven Dow, Executive Director of the Tulsa Community Action Project explained. Dow was instrumental in implementing Tulsa’s program in the 1990’s and continues to work with the program.

In Tulsa, each Pre-K class has two teachers with no more than twenty students. Oklahoma funds Pre-K at the same level as kindergarten through 12th grade.

“We've spent a lot of money, but we and the studies that have been done have shown that we've gotten a far bigger return on those dollars than any other area that we've invested in,” Dow said.

Metro plans to spend more than $7-million on opening and operating early learning centers at Bordeaux, Ross and Casa Azafran. District leaders are hoping Dow can give them some insight.

“How did you start? How did you get going,” Wiltshire asked. “What are some of the challenges you faced and what are some things we should be thinking about?”

Getting it right, studies show can help bridge the gap especially for students who could have otherwise started their education already behind.

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