The Draper Approach
The concept for a Universal Pre-K Program in Georgia was initiated during the 1990 gubernatorial campaign by then Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller. As part of the proposal to create the Georgia Lottery for Education, candidate Miller targeted the creation of a preschool program and college scholarship initiative.
The Pre-K program was officially implemented during the 1993-1994 school year with 8,700 children served in approximately 170 sites at a cost of $4,258 per child. During the 2005 - 2006 school year, Georgia 's Pre-K Program served 73,702 children with a total budget of over $290 million at a funded cost per child of $3,936. The Pre-K Program is provided by 898 providers at 1787 sites throughout the State.
The tremendous growth and popularity of the program has continued to create additional administrative requirements for the agency responsible for administering the program, The Georgia Department of Early Care & Learning (DECAL). Additionally, with the limited resources available, the focus of DECAL has been on keeping the program running efficiently and the executives wanted to take a fresh look at the overall direction of the program. In 2005, the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) engaged the services of Draper & Associates to conduct a comprehensive review of the Georgia Pre-K Program, Bright from the Start.
The objective of this Review was to conduct a comprehensive study of internal programs within the Georgia Pre-K Program, to ensure continuous quality improvements and to inform policy makers of any future changes needed to improve the existing program. The primary purpose of the review was to identify and define opportunities to:
- improve the effectiveness and efficiency with which the Georgia Pre-K Program operates and serves its constituents, and
- strengthen the stewardship functions of the Program with respect to granting Pre-K awards, monitoring Pre-K programs and state level management of the Pre-K program.
The Draper Approach
The review entailed a comprehensive review of the functional organizational structure, operating and administrative processes, and relative cost and benefits or cost effectiveness of the program. In conducting the review, Draper & Associates interviewed key staff from five peer States, selected by DECAL, to identify best practices and identify opportunities for improvements that might merit consideration in Georgia . Once data had been collected, information was evaluated along with the program effectiveness for the three major activities: (1) Granting Pre-K Awards, (2) monitoring Pre-K programs and (3) State-level management of the Pre-K Program.
These and other activities were addressed through an engagement that Draper & Associates crafted specifically for this review. It included the use of a proven analytical methodology that provided for the careful consideration of all of aspects of the activities, functions, processes and/or outcomes involved in a given operation, either individually or in relation to one another. This methodology was applied through an approach and work program that was designed to generate solutions that can be implemented based on comprehensive fact finding and sound analysis developed by the project team assigned to this study.
Additionally, five focus groups sessions were conducted throughout the State of Georgia to solicit feedback relative to the Pre-K Program administered by Bright from the Start. The participants included a wide range of stakeholders including public and private Pre-K providers, Head Start representatives, parents and local education institutions involved in early childhood development. The results of these focus group sessions were incorporation into the conclusions and recommendations made by Draper.
A comprehensive Report conveyed completed findings, conclusions and recommendations covering all aspects of the functional organization structure, operating and administrative processes, financial practices and management practices that support programs administered by Georgia 's Pre-K Program. Specific strengths and weaknesses were identified and defined in terms of their impact on operating and financial performance, service delivery, and compliance with applicable regulatory/governance requirements. Specific opportunities for improvement were also delineated along with their projected or estimated impact.
Draper & Associates recommended eight (8) strategic alternatives for Bright from the Start's consideration. Certain strategic recommendations entail shifts in current policy while others would represent an increased focus on initiatives which may already be underway or under consideration. Draper also recommended for DECAL's consideration, thirty-seven (37) specific organizational and process improvements emerging from analysis and conclusions drawn from the review. The information presented was intended to address potential refinements that will further improve the Program and further secure Georgia 's ranking as a national leader in the pre-K arena.