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Reading between the lines, from preschool, on
Free, all-day kindergarten a proven success in BSD.
The Bremerton School District board of directors unanimously approved funding for another year of free, full-day kindergarten at a board meeting March 20.
Since its implementation during the 2002-03 school year when 14 at-risk students from each BSD elementary school were placed in full-day kindergarten to improve their reading ability the program has been overwhelmingly effective.
Last year the district offered free, full-day kindergarten to all students for the first time.
And the offer is on the table again for the 2008-09 school year as an information and registration fair for the free, full-day program will be held from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday at the district administrative building.
Full-day kindergarten is life changing for children, said Linda Sullivan-Dudzic, BSD director of special programs, who has helped to spearhead the program. By reaching children prior to kindergarten with a quality preschool experience followed by a full-day kindergarten that uses best practice teaching and learning strategies, we provide the solid foundation that children require for their academic journey.
Early childhood learning has long since been a priority for the district, dating back to 2001.
Seven years ago when statewide voters passed Student Achievement Initiative 728 (I-728), providing funds to increase student achievement in the Bremerton School District, only four percent of BSD preschoolers assessed by the Dynamic Inventory of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) knew the alphabet entering kindergarten, according to a report by Sullivan-Dudzic.
In response to the alarming numbers, Sullivan-Dudzics report stated, district personnel and community preschool providers formed the Early Childhood Care and Education Group (ECCE) during the 2001-02 school year, aiming to give preschoolers early reading foundation skills and to bulldoze the barriers associated with reading difficulties.
ECCE partnered with Bremerton preschools during the 2002-03 school year and developed a research-validated reading curriculum for all preschoolers, implementing it district-wide to bring reading numbers up.
And the efforts paid off as 28.1 percent of students entering kindergarten were reported to have early reading foundation skills, the report said a vast improvement from the four percent of 2001.
The notion of full-day kindergarten for all students was introduced by BSD community outreach specialist Krista Carlson, before the 2005-06 school year. Carlson had seen the program work in Tempe, Arizona and believed Bremerton could successfully carry it out.
It is the only time in a childs life where you can double the amount of instruction without sacrificing other subjects or enrichment activities, Sullivan-Dudzic said.
Full-day kindergarten and a preschool program to raise DIBELS scores have yielded staggering results.
In September 2007, 509 first grade students students read at an all-time high 74.2 percent benchmark level after completing a year of full-day kindergarten, up from 59.9 percent in 2006 and 53.7 percent in 2005, Sullivan-Dudzics report stated.
Additionally, DIBELS scores skyrocketed to unprecedented heights when the ECCE early learning efforts were combined with full-day kindergarten.
In May 2007, 92.3 percent of full-day kindergarten students read at a benchmark level, well above numbers as low was 55.9 percent in 2002.
The kids really are ready to learn, Jan Bullock, a first-grade teacher at Armin Jahr Elementary explained at the March 20 board meeting. They are achieving at a higher level.
Another thing we found out was that the kids were eager to learn, she said, adding that students who complete full-day kindergarten are entering first grade with a step up. Bremerton also is attracting students from other districts because of its success with full-day kindergarten.
Alicia Vasquez of Central Kitsap, whose son Bailey completed full-day kindergarten in Bremerton, said the program offered her son all he needed to succeed.
We were looking for an all-day kindergarten that would challenge him, she said to the board. He just thrived in that program.