2017 Finalist
City of New York, NY
March 30, 2018
New York

In January of 2014, the New York City Mayor’s Office released its ambitious plan to implement universal pre-kindergarten to provide every four-year-old in New York City with access to free, full-day, high-quality pre-K by September of 2015. At that time, only 19,287 four-year-olds were enrolled in full-day pre-K in the city. The city’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten Planning and Implementation Task Force was formed, even before the incoming mayor took office, to design a sustainable, high-quality Pre-K model for the city. Pulling together experts from within and outside of New York, the task force sought to identify and replicate the core features of high-quality models that produce positive learning outcomes. With funding secured in April of 2014, the city began quickly preparing for the 2014–2015 school year. Filling the gap in full-day Pre-K access could not wait, as children eligible to enroll in September of 2014 would not get another chance to attend Pre-K. To implement the expansion within such an ambitious timeframe required extensive interagency coordination. The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) served as the lead agency for the initiative; expansion efforts were also coordinated with the Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives. In the summer of 2014, the NYCDOE and partner agencies worked quickly to identify and partner with high-quality community-based providers, ensuring they were ready to open their doors on the first day of school. At the same time, the city launched an unprecedented grassroots campaign to recruit and enroll families. This included establishing an outreach team of dedicated pre-K enrollment specialists to call families and canvas local communities. The city’s comprehensive approach was grounded in creating a sustainable, high-quality model. Pre-K 4 All programs operate in multiple setting types — district schools, community-based providers (“New York City Early Education Centers” or NYCEECs), and charter schools. The NYCDOE provides extensive support, oversight, and training to programs to make sure that the city’s four-year-olds receive a high quality education. Pre-K students receive a full day of instruction — 6 hours and 20 minutes, with 180 days of education. Instruction is grounded in the Prekindergarten Foundation for the Common Core, the New York State Pre-K learning standards covering all aspects of a child’s development and learning.