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Recently released data shows a need for better access to high-quality preschool programs; Student Success Act could help

Canby's kindergartners this year performed at a slightly lower level than the statewide average in the areas of mathematics and literacy, according to kindergarten assessment data released last week from the Oregon Department of Education and the Early Learning Division.

The assessment is given to kindergartners in the fall within the first few weeks of school, according to Melanie Mesaros, spokesperson for the Early Learning Division, and so largely reflects how ready children are for school based on their pre-elementary-school experience.

"The Kindergarten Assessment is one tool that can help us learn about some of the strengths, assets, and needs of Oregon's children. State and, more so, local data is a critical tool in helping children learn and reach their dreams," said Colt Gill, director of ODE. "The more we learn about our children, the more we can help them succeed. Continued investment in early education is a key component to student success throughout their time in school."

The assessment results provide a snapshot of students' foundational skills in three core areas of learning and development: early literacy, early math and interpersonal/self-regulation skills, per ODE.

When it comes to interpersonal and self-regulation skills, Canby kindergartners' scores aligned closely with statewide averages. In the area of self-regulation, Canby's kindergartners scored an average rating of 3.5 out 5, which matches the state average of 3.5. In the area of interpersonal skills, Canby's kids scored an average 3.8 compared to the state average of 3.7.

But local youngsters are trailing just barely behind in early mathematics and early literacy.

Canby's kindergartners correctly answered an average of 10.8 simple math questions compared to the state average of 11.

Out 26 letters and sounds, Canby's kindergartners correctly identified an average of 13.1 uppercase letters compared to the statewide average of 14.3; Canby's kindergartners correctly identified an average of 10.5 lowercase letters to the statewide average of 11.6; and Canby's kindergartners correctly identified an average of 6.5 letter sounds to the statewide average of 7.7.

Of course, ODE further dissected the data by student group, which shows that students labeled as Hispanic/Latinx scored significantly lower in math and literacy than students labeled as white.

Mesaros noted that the time between birth and kindergarten is the most consequential period in human development and said the ELD's goal is that more children have access to early learning opportunities.

Canby offers several private and community-based preschool programs including Zoar Lutheran Preschool, Canby Community Preschool, Macksburg Preschool and more. But of course, these options come at a cost, both in finances and in time, that not every family can manage.

"Opportunity gaps for children begin at birth. Our kindergarten assessment results continue to underscore that our youngest children do not have access to the quality early learning they need," said Miriam Calderon, Oregon's Early Learning System director.

There are free preschool options in Canby too, with Head Start at Barlow Center and Clackamas ESD's Head Start to Success at Ackerman Center. However, these programs are only for families with an income at or below the federal poverty level, who are receiving certain forms of public assistance such as TANF or SSI or who are homeless.

Fortunately, more preschool options could soon become available. The Student Success Act, a bill that passed in 2019, will provide funding to expand high-quality, publicly funded preschool programming.

Thanks to the bill, local early learning programs have the option to apply for funding through the ELD with a deadline of April 2. Community-based organizations, childcare providers, public and private schools, culturally specific organizations, business organizations, and more are encouraged to apply. To find out more and to apply, visit oregonearlylearning.com/student-success-act.

It is still unclear whether Canby School District itself will expand early learning opportunities using Student Success Act funds, according to district spokesperson Autumn Foster, as the committee is still in the process of building a plan and an application for funds.


Kristen Wohlers
Reporter
503-263-7512
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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