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Board approves plan to reduce achievement gap
School board approves plan to reduce achievement gap
Posted on 03/21/2019
School board approves plan to reduce achievement gap

In order to increase opportunities for young children to prepare for kindergarten, the Puyallup School District formed a committee in 2016 to explore the possibility of implementing an early learning plan and to make a recommendation to the school board.

The committee was comprised of Instructional Leadership, Special Services, Business Services, Operations, an elementary principal, and preschool teachers. They considered district programs, staff, and curriculum. They traveled to other local districts to study preschool and early learning implementations.

As a result, preschool will be offered through Right At School at Firgrove and Maplewood elementary schools in fall 2019 and at Pope in fall 2020. It is open to three and four-year-old students. They must turn three by August 31, 2019. Plans are also in works for an early entrance kindergarten program, called Kindergarten Academy, which is set to begin in January 2020.

The preschool programs are strategically located amongst the three regions in the district. This will provide options and local access for families. Two Open Houses have been scheduled for Puyallup School District preschool students and their families on Tuesday, March 26 at Maplewood Elementary and Thursday, March 28 at Firgrove Elementary.  Learn more.

Registration for preschool is currently open for the 2019-2020 school year. See more information.

Research committee, considerations, and planning
The committee shared information with the school board about preschool and an early entrance kindergarten program on January 26, 2018. The school board revisited the preschool and early entrance kindergarten plan on February 26, 2018 before making its unanimous decision to adopt both programs on March 5, 2018.  In February 2019, the committee provided an update to the school board and recommended changes to the planned program. Use the graphic below to find links to highlights of each board meeting.

The presentation to the school board by Assistant Superintendent Vince Pecchia on February 19 stated:

“Since last June, a district committee comprised of preschool teachers and administrators have been designing our own preschool program; however, there have been reservations and concerns in the process. The committee was tasked with designing a self-sustaining tuition-based preschool program, while living within the initial implementation plans. Concerns expressed from the committee include: the desire to offer families full day preschool, before and after school childcare, a smaller class size ratio, a five day a week program, and state childcare subsidy options.  The committee understands that these concerns are not easily mitigated given the current and future financial commitments towards salaries and benefits that are needed to staff a self-sustaining preschool program.”

After extensive planning, research, and discussion, the district’s Instructional Leadership Department concluded it would be more beneficial to parents and more cost effective to the district to recommend using an outside vendor, Right At School, to manage a self-sustaining tuition-based preschool program. The recommendation was unanimously approved by the school board at its February 19 meeting.

Learn more about Right At School
In order to provide more options for families, the Puyallup School District will partner with Right At School to offer the regional preschool program. 

This does not apply to the district’s special education preschool which is currently in place. There are no planned changes to this program.

Assistant Superintendent Vincent Pecchia says the challenges faced by the district’s tuition-based preschool implementation committee included maintaining a self-sustaining preschool which pays for itself, being able to offer additional options including full-day preschool, and a state childcare subsidy option. The Right At School program offers smaller class sizes and a five day a week program.

“Right At School is willing to design their preschool program to meet Puyallup School District’s kindergarten readiness expectations. Their program already uses a core curriculum that our district preschool committee recommends,” says Pecchia.

They will align their preschool assessments and other instructional materials to district expectations and standards. Assistant Superintendent Vincent Pecchia says there will be follow-up studies to assess kindergarten readiness as the preschoolers enter kindergarten.

Currently, Right At School provides before and after childcare at every elementary school in the district. The childcare partnership began in fall 2017 and has proven successful for parents, guardians, students, and the district.

A national organization, Right At School has established preschool programs in Ohio and California.  The district’s Instructional Leadership Department was able to review information obtained from the district’s tuition-based preschool implementation committee that included current practices and procedures before making the recommendation to partner with Right At School.

Registration and options
Registration to enroll in tuition-based preschool is now open. Preschool will be offered at Firgrove and Maplewood elementary schools in fall 2019 and at Pope in fall 2020. It is open to three and four-year-old students. They must turn three by August 31, 2019.

Click on the links below to register for fall 2019:

Register now for Maplewood preschool.
Register now for Firgrove preschool.

Learn more about Maplewood and Firgrove preschool programs.

Registration will take place directly through Right At School (see links above). The tuition-based preschool will be offered to families who live within the Puyallup School District boundaries and includes: 

•  Half-day, full-day, and before/after school childcare;
•  Serves three and four-year-old students, five days a week;
•  Cost for monthly tuition:
        –  $600 for half-day (AM or PM), which includes before or after school childcare, or
        –  $1,000 for full-day, which includes before and after school childcare;
•  Accepts state childcare subsidy;
•  Five staff per site (based on two classrooms): One director, two lead teachers, and two                                                                   assistant teachers;
•  Projected enrollment of 20 students per classroom.

Kindergarten readiness
Statistics show that less than 50 percent of children begin school meeting kindergarten readiness performance indicators. In 2017 that number was 49 percent in the Puyallup School District.

The achievement gap of incoming kindergarten students is far greater than other achievement gaps found in later grades. This is due mostly to the fact that some of our youngest learners do not have the opportunity to attend a formal preschool program or any other type of early learning experience prior to entering kindergarten. 

For this reason, the district has set a goal to increase the percentage of children entering kindergarten who can demonstrate specific learning characteristics.

When students begin kindergarten they are given a whole-child assessment where teachers observe and record each child’s developing skills in six areas: social-emotional, physical, cognitive, language, literacy, and mathematics.

Student assessments for kindergartners begin in the fall. These performance indicators are compared to scores the following spring. The assessments include:

  ·    Washington Kindergarten Inventory Developing Skills (WaKIDS)
  ·    Read Well Placement Inventory
  ·    Dynamic Indicators of Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS)
  ·    Bridge Assessment Data

The Student Learning and Special Services departments have been working with families and early learning centers for many years to prepare students for kindergarten.

They reach out on an ongoing basis to form relationships, strengthen ties, and provide information. These relationships provide an opportunity to communicate the academic, social, and emotional experiences children should have before they enter kindergarten and assist in providing programs that support them.

Did you know
·    Every year a conference with community early learning providers is sponsored by the district.
·    A Linkages committee consisting of providers and district staff meets monthly to learn from each other and help ease the transition to kindergarten for students.
·    The district has contracted with a childcare provider called Right At School to offer before and after childcare in all elementary schools. Designed for students in preschool through grade six, the program has curriculum aligned to district standards and can target individual student needs.
·    Ready for Kindergarten classes are offered to parents and guardians of children beginning kindergarten the following school year. The series of three classes are held at various times and locations throughout the school year. Parents are encouraged to talk, sing, read, and play in simple ways that foster essential pre-literacy, pre-math, and social-emotional skills. They receive an early learning tool kit for each class containing age-appropriate learning materials to use with their child.

Kindergarten Academy
Recognizing not all children have access to preschool, the school board approved the implementation of an early entrance kindergarten program called Kindergarten Academy which is set to begin in January 2020.

In the State of Washington, students must be five years of age by August 31 to enroll in kindergarten. The Kindergarten Academy is designed as an early entrance full-day kindergarten program for students who turn five after August 31 and will be five the following school year. It will be funded by state revenue and there will be no cost to families. 

Current committee work will determine candidate outreach, assessment and screening process, and curriculum philosophy. More information about Kindergarten Academy will be shared with the community in late August 2019.  

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