District Early Childhood Programs
To ensure that all children develop the necessary cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills that build the foundation for life-long learning and early literacy; this is accomplished by providing a high quality, safe and nurturing environment, responsive to the culturally diverse and unique needs of each child, through individual and interactive learning opportunities, supported by excellence in teaching and research-based instructional practices aligned with the NYS Learning Standards and the District’s curricula, in partnership with parents, staff, policy makers and community organizations.
- Enact a research-based, child centered curricula in alignment with the NYS Learning Standards and District’s content area curricula to ensure continuity of programming and a seamless transition to kindergarten.
- Create and sustain classrooms that develop critical thinking, cognitive, language, pre-literacy and motor skills, and social emotional growth.
- Establish strong parent/school partnerships.
- Implement research-based best practices in early childhood instruction, supported by effective professional development, across all programs.
- Work collaboratively with community early childhood educators to provide high quality educational programs for all resident preschoolers.
- Systematically measure children’s growth in the critical areas of child development and early reading to identify students who are in need of more intensive instruction and to modify instructional practices.
The Syracuse City School District has provided services to prekindergarten children since 1966. The program was funded through the New York State Education Department and included a required 11% local share. It has operated under the names of Experimental Prek, Targeted Prek and NYS Funded Prek over the years. The District was able to serve 3 and 4 year old children. This program structure operated for over 30 years serving only children who met income eligibility guidelines (qualified for free or reduced meals). Then in 1997, NY State legislation was passed to implement Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) across NY State. The design of this program was to ensure all age eligible 4 year old children would receive a prekindergarten program. Also, District’s were to seek collaborative partnership with Early Childhood providers within the community to provide UPK program to resident, age eligible 4 year old children. Initially the program blended both the Targeted Prek with Universal Prek and the District continued to be able to serve 3 and 4 year old preschool children. Currently the District offers Universal Prekindergarten and annually applies for a waiver to include a small number of 3 year old children in District classrooms only. The 3 year old children must meet income eligibility guidelines to enroll in the program. The Syracuse City School District’s Early Childhood Program has received national and State recognition for its innovative parent involvement and inclusion programs.
- Universal Prekindergarten Program (UPK): UPK serves over 1200 District resident 4 year olds between community partnerships and District locations and close to 200 District, income eligible 3 year olds. This program is supported by NYSED grant and District funding. There are half and full day sessions offered in school buildings and the District contracts with 20 community based organizations to operate UPK classes within their facilities. Currently, UPK agencies are operated in 20 locations around the City including 5 Head Start sites, 5 child care centers, 6 nursery schools and 4 operated inclusive special education preschools. UPK programming provides effective standards-based instruction for preschoolers and comprehensive services for their families. Following the success of 2 Early Reading First grants through the U.S. Department of Education (2004-07 and 2007-10), all UPK classrooms implement an early literacy instructional program; Scott Foresman Reading Street.
- Inclusive Programs for Preschoolers with Disabilities: One of the early childhood program’s strengths is inclusive education. There are no self contained special education classes for preschoolers with disabilities as all children are either included in our District pre-k classes or provided special education services by District early childhood staff in child care provider site. The Onondaga County Department of Health funds these services as determined by NYSED Program Services Reimbursement Unit.
- Early Intervention Program: offers three half days per week center-based programming for toddlers with disabilities in combination with home-based services as indicated on each child’s Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP). The Onondaga County Department of Health funds the toddler program with additional funding from the District.
- The Early Childhood Evaluation Center: provides comprehensive psycho-educational evaluations of children, age’s birth to 5 years, suspected of having a disability. These evaluations are conducted either in the child’s home, child care center or at the District’s evaluation center located in Beard School.
- Parent Involvement: parents are their child’s first teacher and an integral part of all the District’s early childhood programs. Parents are welcome to volunteer in their child’s classroom at any time and/or participate in the parent aide training program. The program receives feedback for use in continuous improvement planning through the Pre-k Parent Advisory and Early Reading First Parent Advisory Committees. Every center provides a family involvement activity each month to encourage interactive parent/child learning. Parents are actively involved in the “Raising Readers” and “Literacy Tree” initiatives to encourage their child’s love of reading and the development of pre-literacy skills.
For more information call the Syracuse Early Childhood Program Office: (315) 435-4276