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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

What is a high-quality preschool?

April 16, 2008

Around our town, parents of preschoolers are busy observing in classrooms and filling out lengthy application forms for next year's preschool. Most of our preschools have a $25–$40 application fee and waiting lists a mile long, so it's a process that many undertake cautiously and anxiously.

I'm often asked what to look for in a good preschool program. I'll share some resources on the topic (and encourage you to read them) BUT ALSO tell you to trust your instincts as you're visiting different preschools. I'm always struck by the powerful messages (intentional and unintentional) that schools send to parents. I've learned to really trust those impressions and use them as pieces of information during the decision-making process.

Pre-K Now offers a fact sheet about high-quality preschool. They address teacher training and certification, student-teacher ratio, and curriculum. They stress alignment between preschool curriculum and a state's K-12 standards.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has a section called Early Years Are Learning Years that includes information about choosing a preschool. It also addresses the preschool's relationship with the family and the importance of a qualified staff.

Although it's a bit more academic, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) has a policy brief that outlines high-quality preschool. The recommendations from this brief focus on child, family, teacher, curriculum, and classroom dimensions.

I hope this is helpful to you!


Trust your instincts is good advice! We sent our daughter to an NAEYC certified program and it turned out to be awful. We trusted that the certification meant something. The next place we chose was somewhere that was not NAEYC certified, but we had a good feeling about it. We were not disappointed. Over 7 years of having 2 kids at that centre the staff was far more stable than at other centres we know of - definitely a good sign. Both kids were well-prepared socially and academically for kindergarten.

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"Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won't have as much censorship because we won't have as much fear." —

Judy Blume