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City of Tempe Council evaluates preschool program's effectiveness and its longer-term effect on lower-income communities

Based on the findings of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, the city council will move forward with revising and developing the program to help support all aspects of the Tempe community and uplift low-income families. 

NORC gives trustworthy and nonpartisan information and analysis, according to the website, delivered a presentation on Feb. 8, 2024, at the City of Tempe's work study session. Aiming to give the members essential findings and insights about the "Independent Evaluation of Tempe Preschool Resource Expansion (PRE)," which examined how teachers and families experience the program and its effects on students. The evaluation was funded by the Helios Education Foundation and carried out by NORC at the University of Chicago. 

In March 2017, the Tempe City Council created a two-year pilot preschool initiative catering to economically disadvantaged families of three- and four-year-old children. The aim was to gather ample data to showcase the impact of high-quality preschool education on children's kindergarten readiness, according to the memorandum issue review

“Tempe PRE was developed and designed to be a high-quality preschool program that will create more opportunities for children in Tempe,” said Marc Hernandez, a developmental psychologist with expertise in cognitive development and early childhood and elementary education.

Stacy Loewe, a trained developmental psychologist and a principal research scientist, showcased the research findings. According to Loewe, students enrolled in the program score higher and learn faster than their peers. Emotional regulation is a key element that children develop when they are a part of the program. They are learning “how to manage their emotions in the classroom,” a skill that will benefit them beyond the classroom that not many have said Loewe. 

The Tempe-sponsored preschool program was not only intended to help children academically, socially, and emotionally but “also … designed to provide opportunities for families so that parents can achieve greater outcomes for themselves,” said Hernandez. 

After the presentation, councilmember Bredetta Hodge, District 4, proposed the idea of breaking down the findings by demographics because the reality is doing so will show that “our native American or African American or Hispanic kids they are always at the bottom,” said councilmember Hodge, only then can the program create a more significant change at a larger scale. 

Hodge said tackling most of the issues that lie with students from low-income and minority families starts at the preschool level. 

According to Loewe, the only children included in the study were those whose family incomes below a particular level. Focusing on the families who exhibit the need to identify the program's growth and impact properly was necessary to leave out the children whose families could afford to pay the tuition in full. 

Councilmember Joel Navarro, District 4, was a part of developing the program in 2017, and according to Councilmember Navarro, programs like Tempe PRE help will have a ripple effect within the community. Helping with issues such as homelessness, drug addiction, and student life success. The program has been created in a way to ensure not only the success of the student but also the success of the parent, allowing parents time to get their General Education Department. “The health behind that is huge,” said Navarro. 

According to Navarro, the program is meant to create an atmosphere where they can prosper and grow at school and at home. 

“Education is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the community's benefits go. The parents are able to work more hours and go back to school, and every aspect of this program uplifts those in the city who need it the most,” said councilmember Randy Keating, District 4.

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