Selecting a Preschool Program

When your child is between the ages of 2 ½ and 3, you will have the option to place him or her into a preschool classroom.  Studies show that children who attend high-quality preschool have higher math and reading skills, are better prepared for kindergarten, behave better in class, and are even more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college.

Teacher Qualifications

  • Ask the preschool director about teacher qualifications, such as the number of teachers who have completed college courses or degrees in early childhood education.
  • How long have the teachers worked at the school?
  • Have the teachers been trained in CPR, first aid, and poison control?
  • When visiting the program, see how teachers interact with the kids, are they affectionate and enthusiastic? Do teachers get down on the floor and play with the children?
  • How do teachers handle conflict and discipline?
  • Check to see how many teachers there are per class.  There should be 1 teacher for every 10 children.

Curriculum

  • High-quality preschools should have lesson plans available for parents to read, so you can see what your child will learn throughout the year.
  • A quality curriculum should have a mix of activities, from solving puzzles to playing outside.
  • Also check to see that there are a variety of learning opportunities for your child to be taught in a class setting, a small group, and one-on-one with the teacher.

Classroom Environment

  • Does the classroom have separate learning areas for writing, art, and reading?
  • Is there a good playground?  Do children play inside and outside every day?
  • Does the classroom have lots of books and educational toys such as blocks and puzzles?
  • Are lunches and snacks healthy? Are food preparation areas clean?
  • Do most of the children seem happy and involved in activities?
  • Are the classroom rules fair and are teachers consistent in enforcing the rules with all children?
  • Do teachers help misbehaving children learn how to act the next time, telling the child what behavior is expected?
  • Do teachers use positive discipline words? “Remember to walk into our classroom” is better than “No running.”
  • Are children with disabilities and other special needs included and supported?

Parent Engagement

  • Do teachers and parents share information about the child both at scheduled meetings and when parents are dropping off or picking up their children?
  • Do teachers share written information and assessments on the child’s development ing up?
  • Are parents encouraged to drop in at any time throughout the day? It is better when parents are involved.
  • When visiting the program, see how teachers interact with the kids, are they affectionate and enthusiastic? Do teachers get down on the floor and play with the children?
  • Do parents help in the classroom by bringing in special activities, books, or songs?

Free preschool programs are available in Santa Clara County for families who qualify. Click here to learn more about the Head Start program and the eligibility requirements.