Families Urged to Enroll in UPK
October 16, 2012
By Stephanie West
Families need to enroll their children in Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) programs before the October 31 deadline. All children born in 2008 who reside in New York City are eligible for UPK during the 2012-2013 school year and families are encouraged to apply for the vacant seats. The Department of Education is supporting families in finding programs by posting updated vacancy fliers online weekly through the end of October and canvassing in high need areas with staff and volunteers.
“Children who receive early childhood education are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to drop out or to have to repeat a grade,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “That’s why at the Council, we have been fighting since 2006 to increase access to Universal Prekindergarten across the city. The most powerful thing we can do, as a city, to show our commitment to our children’s and the city’s future is make sure that every child who is eligible to attend universal pre-kindergarten programs enrolls.”
Research shows that early childhood education is essential in closing the achievement gap in education. National and local findings demonstrate the importance of high-quality early childhood education for expanding opportunities for children in high needs communities, both in the short and long term. By the age of five, 85 percent of the brain is already developed; by kindergarten, half of the achievement gap that is evident at the end of high school is already present. High-quality early childhood interventions have been shown to lead to increased social readiness, higher incomes, less likelihood of drug use, and less involvement in the criminal justice system.
Those findings are echoed in New York City, where a Department of Education analysis found a correlation between academic success and participation in the Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) program. The Department examined state English and math test results for third through fifth grade students, comparing those who had attended UPK to those who had not. Third grade students who had attended UPK were 28 percent more likely to score as proficient on the state English exam and 54 percent more like to score as proficient on the state math exam, when compared to their peers who did not attend pre-k. The analysis showed that those performance odds continued for pre-kindergarten students through the fifth grade.
UPK programs offer at least 2.5 hours of educational services at no cost to parents. Even with an increase in UPK enrollment each year, there are likely still several thousand seats available across the five boroughs at this time.
To find a UPK program that may still have availability for the 2012-2013 school year, parents can call 311 or visit the Department of Education’s website at schools.nyc.gov/prek.