Rochester (N.Y.) City School District (RCSD) has a long tradition of early childhood education. It began in the 1930s with its “guided observation” program. It then helped to implement Head Start in 1967 and Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) in 1997. Today the District serves approximately 1,900 children in its UPK program in RCSD schools, community organizations such as the YMCA, Volunteers of America, and other independent child care centers.
The program’s goal, said Robin Hooper, Ed.D., Executive Director, RCSD Department of Early Childhood, is to “help children be prepared to be lifelong learners and to gain the academic, social, emotional, and motor skills so vital for early school success.” That’s not so easily done, however. The City of Rochester has a very high child poverty rate–11th in the nation–which brings with it multiple issues affecting children’s development.