Educational Alliance UPK Economic Integration

Prepared By Andrew Cavanagh, PhD, Director of Research and Evaluation

Located on the racially and economically diverse Lower East Side of New York City, the Educational Alliance (EA) preschool at the Manny Cantor Center (MCC) has operated since 2014 using a progressive Reggio Emilia model. For the first time in 2018, EA’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) program was economically integrated. 72 UPK students were placed into four classrooms, regardless of their family’s point of entry into the program as Head Start-eligible or tuition-paying. This process was grounded in a belief that classroom diversity enhances the experiences of all stakeholders, and that integrated classrooms can ameliorate existing disparities in kindergarten readiness and school choice by providing equal access to resources and supports. Despite near consensus in the research literature on why educators should provide economically integrated learning environments, less is known about how programs can achieve effective economic integration. EA program leadership was challenged by the extraordinary complexities of combining revenue streams, staff, resources, and outcomes evaluation while maintaining the fidelity of its progressive education model. This report provides a detailed overview of (1) the practices required for integration (2) the experiences of students, parents, staff, and program leadership, (3) lessons learned, and (4) recommendations for practitioners, policymakers and researchers seeking to promote economically integrated early childhood learning environments.