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Tacoma Schools making major investment in early childhood education April 14, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Funding.
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In February, the Tacoma School Board agreed to increase the availability of full-day kindergarten for all schools in the district.

Although the state is working on a long-term phase-in, the Tacoma School District is acting sooner, according to the “Tacoma School Board agrees to fund free full-day kindergarten”  article in the News Tribune.

The costs will apparently run about $3 million for materials, salaries, and facilities changes.  According to the article, assistant superintendent Michael Power told the School Board that:

Kids who start their school careers with a full day of learning do better in the long run .

It’s “a very consistent finding” in numerous studies dating back more than 20 years, he said.

This blog author believes that families should have the option to choose full-day vs. half-day, based on the family’s situation and preferences, but that access to full-day should be an option for everyone. Several studies show the value of full-day programs, and many states are ahead of Washington in providing access.

Although one reason for the decision appears to be the district’s efforts to comply with the federal performance requirements, the school board should still be commended on its bold move. If Tacoma can show its support of early childhood education, why can’t other districts?

Signs of our times April 12, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Growth.
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Some schools in Washington state cannot provide enough full-time kindergarten slots to all children in attendance area, because they do not have enough classroom space. Increased density and shifting demographics are likely among the factors that have led to increased kindergarten enrollment, and will likely cause more enrollment pressure in years to come.

SignIncreased density can occur when property owners subdivide or request “short plat” lots, seek private amendment requests, add accessory dwelling units “ADUs” (add-on structures that people live in), or seek to increase density through multi-family zoning. In some Puget Sound communities, such as Kirkland, Redmond, and Bellevue, you’ve probably seen signs like this often.

In addition to increased density, another trend is smaller homes being torn down in favor of larger homes. Often the original homeowner has no children living at home, whereas the new homeowner might be a young professional with school-aged children. Traffic on our bridges is an incentive for Seattle families to move closer to employment centers when they have children.

This blog is not suggesting that the growth is all positive or all negative, but districts need to approach the issues head on. Many large projects are underway or are being considered, such as new condos everywhere, Google leasing a new building site in Kirkland, and significant renovations to Park Place and Totem Lake (including possible office space).

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Interesting report – “The Full Story on Full Day Kindergarten” April 10, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Funding.
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The Economic Opportunity Institute has authored an in-depth report called The Full Story on Full Day on the benefits of kindergarten and where Washington state is headed. The report describes the benefits of full-day kindergarten, limitations in current offerings, and how we’re not keeping pace with several other states. The report provides interesting details and insight.

“Fewer than 40% of kindergartners in Washington State participate in full-day kindergarten. Availability of the program is limited and adequate funding is difficult to secure.”

 Here’s an excerpt on the importance of kindergarten:

“Full-day kindergarten provides a myriad of benefits for students and for the broader community. From increased academic achievement and school readiness to more time for meaningful instruction and increased continuity in coursework, full-day kindergarten lays the foundation for a robust public education.”

The report describes the long-term economic benefit for the state, in terms of students requiring less long-term support or tutoring and maximizing their potential. There’s also a major economic benefit and increased productivity for parents, who would otherwise have to stay out of the workforce or pay for more expensive private options.

“Full-day kindergarten results in increased academic achievement and school readiness for participants. It not only produces positive, long-term economic benefits for individuals and society, it also results in immediate returns for families, schools, and Washington State’s bottom line.”

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Early childhood education should be a higher priority April 10, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Introduction.
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Do you think every child in Washington deserves the best start possible through full-day kindergarten? Are you concerned about the availability and cost of full-day slots, and that state and local leaders aren’t acting fast enough to address the situation? If so, then this site is a place to share your concerns and ideas. 

Perhaps you are a parent who has had to “play the lottery” for a full-day kindergarten slot, and either been left in limbo, or lost out on a slot. As a result, are you scrambling for “Plan B,” because your neighborhood school can’t educate your child?

Do you believe there should be more open communication about kindergarten availability and the lottery system? If so, please keep coming back to read more posts or feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.

This blog is dedicated to seeking more support of early childhood education in Washington State. It will focus somewhat on the Puget Sound region, but will still be relevant to statewide funding issues.

Most of us wouldn’t bet our life savings on a lottery  — why should we take chances on which students have a better chance at succeeding? Our children’s future should not be left to chance.