For over 23 years, PreSchool Partners has been providing a quality early education that would be out of reach for most families living in the inner city of Birmingham. The program was founded on the belief that every child deserves a quality preschool education, whether his/her family can afford to pay for it or not. For the 2017-18 school year, we have expanded to serve 180 people, 90 children and 90 parents. We target the Woodlawn and north Birmingham neighborhoods, areas that are considered at risk and under-served. However, we have seen an increase in 4K classrooms in these target areas, so we are starting to serve more families in other areas of Birmingham, with a large concentration in Centerpoint. We provide a highly structured learning environment for our two, three, and four year old students every Monday through Friday during the school year, ensuring that they will start kindergarten ahead of the game, rather than behind.
PreSchool Partners, a 501c3 organization, was founded at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in 1995 as a response to the need for parental participation and preparation of school age children from inner city families in north Birmingham, Alabama. These families needed opportunities to help them prepare for the most important tool they had of improving their child’s life - education. Every child deserves a quality education, yet none more so than a child who may already be at risk for negative outcomes due to socioeconomic circumstances. Research has shown that children who are born into poverty and do not get a good head start in education are twice as likely to be in special education, 30% more likely not to go to college, and 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime, drop out of school, never hold a job, and spend the rest of their life in poverty. At PreSchool Partners, we believe a quality preschool education can help change these statistics and that’s what we have been doing for the past 21 years.
The children enrolled in PreSchool Partners receive over 1,000 hours of instruction during the school year. We provide a highly structured learning environment for the children every Monday through Friday that includes classroom activities that teach number, letter, shape, and color recognition, beginning sounds, and rhyming, as well as general classroom behavior and social skills. We have two highly qualified teachers in every classroom and classes are kept small so that each child receives individual attention. The children also have enrichment activities that include music, dance, gymnastics, art instruction, soccer, and field trips.
PreSchool Partners also provides vital health screenings for its students so that any deficiencies may be detected and treated before the child begins kindergarten, thus removing any barriers to learning. These screenings include vision, hearing, dental, and speech and language. We help the parents obtain the services needed to treat any problems found during the health screenings so that treatment can begin before the child starts school. We also provide speech therapy on site to the children who fail the speech screening.
An aspect of PreSchool Partners that sets it apart from other preschools is the requirement that parents attend school one morning a week during the school year with their child if they wish to receive reduced tuition. We strongly believe that success in school requires parental involvement. The National Education Association reports that the earlier parent involvement begins, the more powerful the effects. The parents in our program receive over 60 hours of instruction during the school year on a variety of subjects such as stress and anger management, nutrition, child development, dealing with temper tantrums, and money management.
The parents also participate in a family literacy program called “Families Reading Together” in which they are given a children’s book every week that is theirs to keep. The parents read the book together, along with a trained instructor, and discuss different ways to engage their children in reading and support their reading readiness skills. At home, the parents and children read the book together and complete homework activities. The families in the program receive over 28 books during the school year so that they are able to establish a library at home filled with quality children’s books. The “Families Reading Together” program not only teaches the parents the importance of reading to their children, it gives them the tools to accomplish this.