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home : schools and education : schools May 25, 2016

2/7/2013 2:19:00 PM
Manson kindergarteners influence state education
Michelle Lovato
Staff Writer

Manson School District, which is classified as one of the most poverty-stricken student-ratio schools in the state, took part in a Fall 2012 kindergarten student testing program used to create baseline learning levels for a database intended to help steer Washington's public education future.

Manson Elementary School participated in the Washington
Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, a.k.a. WaKIDS. Teachers administered the test to students during the first seven weeks of the school year.

"In Manson we currently have state funded all-day kindergarten classes," said Manson School District Superintendent Matt Charlton. "Our kindergarten and preschool teachers are using (WaKids tools). The data is very helpful in identifying individual student's developmental growth."

The data covers six areas of development and learning: Social emotional, Physical, Language and cognitive development, Literacy and math.

"New data is now available that will help kindergarten teachers tailor instruction to the needs of individual students, begin meaningful conversations in communities about how to improve education, and help inform state-level decisions about education policy and investments," said Kristen Jaudon, communications specialist for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

OSPI, Thrive by Five Washington and other educational leaders presented their findings to the state legislature Jan. 17 in Olympia.

"We've been waiting a long time for data to help us move forward and that provide us with invaluable information to close the opportunity gap," said Nina Auerbach, president and CEO of Thrive by Five Washington. "We now have an unparalleled opportunity to engage families, early learning professionals, kindergarten teachers and policy makers in prioritizing our investments for children where they're needed most,"

Newly elected 12th District Rep. Brad Hawkins (R-Wenatchee) heard those reports in the House Education Committee meeting.

"As we transition to all-day kindergarten across our state, we need to understand the skill level of the youngsters coming in so we can provide them a high-quality education,"
Hawkins said. "I think everyone on the committee wants our kindergarten students to get a great start in school. If some of those students need improvement, it is better to know at an early stage. It is also helpful for teachers and parents to know who the high-performing students are so they can be challenged."

Manson students helped create that data.
In state terms, a school's free or reduced lunch rate in all-day kindergarten programs determines its poverty level.

WaKIDS was state legislated in 2011 to begin use in state-funded all-day kindergarten classrooms in the fall of 2012.
Manson's rate is among the poorest 20 percent of school districts across the state and is in its fourth year of being a state-funded school.

Chelan School District did not participate in the WaKIDS' first assessment.

"We are not state funded for full day kindergarten," said Chelan Superintendent Rob Manahan. "We anticipate we will be next year, though there are some new bills on the docket this session that suggest we may not get funded by the state."

Chelan's free lunch rate is 65 percent, with its highest rate of poverty at the elementary school (70 percent).

Chelan School District offers full-day kindergarten but its program is paid for by the district's maintenance and operations levy.

Chelan teachers assess their incoming and kindergarten students using a special program designed for students who come from homes where their primary speaking language is not English.

If Chelan School District becomes state funded, Manahan said they will participate in future WaKIDS assessments and programs, which will be overseen by either himself of the district's program director.

Charlton said many Manson students also come from homes where English is not the primary language.

"We know in Manson that a great deal of our students come from homes where Spanish is the primary language spoken in the home and often accompanied by poverty," Charlton said. "Research tells us that the sooner we can support students with high-quality, early childhood learning programs the "opportunity gap" that exists when students begin school is narrowed with their English-speaking and/or non-poverty peers."

Charlton said it usually takes between 5 and 7 years of intentional language and vocabulary instruction in a new language before a learner acquires an academic level of vocabulary proficiency.

"The earlier we begin to teach literacy and language the better," he said.

Manson is in its fourth year of offering free preschool to all 4-year-olds in the community, something paid for through a combination of state resources and local levy funding.

Entiat Superintendent Mike Wyant said Entiat's funding comes from federal Title 1 sources. The Entiat offers half-day preschool for all students as well, a program funded with local levy dollars.

Wyant said the investment in children's education was valuable.

"We see excellent growth in students' academic and social skills," he said.

The WaKIDS assessment was administered to 21,811 students during this baseline year, which is 27 percent of all kindergarten students, according to Jaudon.

The assessment was administered by 1,003 teachers in 308 schools that were located in 102 school districts. In addition to students in schools with state-funded full-day
kindergarten, approximately five percent of these students and teachers were in schools that volunteered to participate.

Because the majority of the children assessed in 2012 were enrolled in state-funded, full-day kindergartens, the data gathered is not representative demographically of the state's entering kindergartners, as a whole. Schools with the highest poverty levels have the highest priority for state-funded full-day kindergarten.

As state funding becomes available to increase the number of full-day kindergarten classrooms, more students will participate in WaKIDS, she said.

Thrive by Five Washington
Thrive by Five Washington was created in 2006 and is the state's nonprofit public-private partnership for early learning.

Thrive mobilizes the statewide commitment to early learning by raising public awareness about the importance of early learning for all children birth to age 5; identifying and driving proven programs, best practices and promising models across the state; and collaborating with early learning and K-12 partners to build an early learning system that helps families and caregivers give their children the best start in school and life possible.

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