The Archdiocese of Chicago has a long history and rich tradition of providing excellent education in its Catholic schools beginning with early childhood. Today, one hundred percent of the elementary schools have kindergarten programs. Ninety-three percent have preschools. The past ten years have seen a 14% increase in preschool programs with many schools opening additional preschool and kindergarten classrooms. To find an ECCE Program near you, please use our school locator.
There are 14,000+ children attending our early childhood programs.
Each school is able to structure their early childhood programs to meet the needs of their families and community. Our schools offer mixed-age programs (3- and 4-year-old children in the same classroom) or age separate groupings. Due to overwhelming demand and/or constraints of space,some preschools only accept 4-year-olds. The schools offer a variety of schedules - full day, half day, five days a week, two or three days a week, morning groups and/or afternoon groups. The early childhood programs also strive to meet the needs of young children and their families by providing before and/or after school care, hot lunch and breakfast programs. Check with the individual school to find out what type of early childhood program they offer.
Each school, including the early childhood programs, goes through a rigorous evaluation process and is recognized by the Office of Catholic Schools and the Illinois State Board of Education. Our programs follow Illinois State Board of Education Early Learning Standards and Kindergarten Standards. Teachers have Bachelors degrees (many have Masters degrees) and state certification. Assistant teachers are provided and enrollment is limited to meet adult/child ratio and group size requirements. The learning environment meets nationally recognized criteria for high quality such as those set forth by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Our schools follow comprehensive PreK-12 curricula, which include Fine Arts, Health, Language Arts, Mathematics, Physical Education, Religion, Science, and Social Studies.
Research and longitudinal studies have well documented that children who attend preschool are more likely to succeed in kindergarten and that participating in early childhood education provides academic and social benefits that last well beyond the early years. The Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools value early childhood education and advocate for high quality programs. When a child enters a preschool or kindergarten in a Catholic school, they become part of an established setting for learning. Our preschool and kindergarten classrooms are not just add-ons or separate programs. They are an integral part of the elementary school community and considered an important part of the learning continuum. Our schools provide safe and secure early childhood education in a loving, faith-based environment.
The State of Illinois’ Preschool for All initiative proposes to ensure voluntary, high-quality preschool access for all 3- and 4-year olds whose parents want it. Preschool for All is based upon the recommendations of the Illinois Early Learning Council, authorized by the Governor and legislature in 2003 to study young children’s learning needs. Currently the State’s priority is funding programs serving primarily at-risk children. It will take several more years of incremental investments to reach Illinois’ goal of preschool access for all 3- and 4-year olds. More families will be served as resources allow, according to priorities set in the new preschool law.
Early Reading First is a new program authorized under Title I, Part B, of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Public Law 107-110. Early Reading First complements another new key reading program, Reading First, which helps states and school districts to implement programs and strategies scientifically proven to be effective in helping school age children in grades K-3 learn to read.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the nation's largest organization of early childhood educators, administers a national, voluntary, professionally sponsored accreditation system for all types of schools and child care centers. Early childhood programs accredited by NAEYC have voluntarily undergone a comprehensive process of internal self-study, invited external professional review to verify compliance with NAEYC’s Early Childhood Program Standards and Accreditation Criteria, and been found to be in compliance with the Criteria.
A partnership of the Office of Catholic Schools and The Big Shoulders Fund with funding from the McCormick Foundation builds the capacity of 25 early childhood education programs in schools supported by the Big Shoulders Fund. The National Louis University McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership provides the 2-year training to develop the leadership skills of 25 preschool and kindergarten teachers.
The Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award is given annually to a teacher who embodies the finest practices of educators who teach young children, from infancy to age eight. A committee of education and community leaders review all candidate applications to select a group of finalists. The finalists are then interviewed and observed in their classrooms. Awardees exemplify the best characteristics of quality teaching: dedication, innovation, leadership, respect for children and their families as well as a commitment to professional growth.
The StoryBus is an arts-based Pre-K and Kindergarten curriculum, as well as an actual bus – a 37-foot Winnebago transformed into a children's literacy museum on wheels! Close your eyes and imagine you are four-years-old, and when you step into the StoryBus, the exhibits magically lift you into the setting of your favorite children's book! Research shows that interactive, interdisciplinary learning is most effective for young children, so the StoryBus is filled with hands-on exhibits to transport young children into a world that makes literature come alive!
Last updated: September 2008
To find an ECCE Program near you, please use our school locator.