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Four-Year-Old Kindergarten in Wisconsin

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Preserving Early Childhood (PEC) 2019

Developmentally Appropriate Learning: Play is the Way!

March 12-14, 2019

The Madison Concourse Hotel, Madison, WI

Registration is Open! 

The 2019 Preserving Early Childhood Conference and Jolyn Beeman Memorial Lecture Series is an Early Childhood Collaborative Event sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. The theme Developmentally Appropriate Learning: Play is the Way!, will examine the critical role that play has in supporting child outcomes, setting the foundation for success throughout the school years, and, the role and expertise that early childhood educators have in supporting and nurturing play.


Dr. Rachel White

Featuring Dr. Rachel White as Key Note Presenter on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. 

Dr. Rachel White is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. As director of the Hamilton Child Development Lab, her research focuses on the growth of cognitive and socioemotional skills from the preschool years through adolescence. She is particularly interested in the ways in which play and other imaginative strategies, like perspective taking, can help children build self-control, social understanding, and creativity. She received her Ph.D. in Child Psychology from the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. She then completed further training as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. White’s work has appeared in prominent academic journals such as Child Development, Developmental Science, Emotion, and the Journal of Educational Psychology, and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Parents Magazine, and Psychology Today. Dr. White has been an advisor to Sesame Workshop, PBS KIDS, the Minnesota Children’s Museum, and schools across the country.

Dr. White's presentation will touch upon the current state of play in our care and educational environments development, the body of evidence supporting play as the venue for educating all young children, and components for effectively implementing play across environments and systems.

Break-Out Session Topics:

  • Using Data to Improve Practices and Outcomes
  • Educator Effectiveness & the Role of Play
  • Early Math
  • Social and Emotional Competencies & Resources

  • Play-Based Instruction: Teacher Education, Practice and Collaboration
  • Supporting Multilingual Learners and their Families
  • Implementing Inclusive Practices
  • And more…

Two Pre-Conference All-Day Sessions will happening on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. 

Wonder and Play in Nature: 

Julie Jarvis and Ruth Ann Lee, Wisconsin Green Schools Network

Spend the day exploring how outdoor play and nature-based learning enriches the whole child, as well as your teaching experience. Come dressed for the weather as we venture outdoors to explore ways to adapt lessons to incorporate play-based learning and strengthen our own connection to nature. Participants will become certified to use Growing Up Wild from Project Wild and Getting Little Feet Wet from Project Wet and receive activity guides as well as inspiration to take play-based learning outside!

*Location: Lussier Family Heritage Center, Madison, WI

Child-Initiated Learning: Exploration and Implementation

Spend a day with colleagues learning more about the Reggio Emilia approach and child-led learning. Participants will learn from others using the Reggio Emilia approach and spend a portion of their day at The Wonder of Learning the Hundred Languages of Children. Participants will engage in shared learning opportunities (both in small and larger groups) and explore how child-initiated learning can be used in their educational environments. The afternoon will be facilitated by professionals utilizing and knowledgeable about child-initiated and play-based learning, including Dr. Rachel White.

Conference Information: 

  • Pre-Conference only (3/12/19)  $100
  • PEC Conference only, two days (3/13/19 & 3/14/19)  $200
  • Pre-Conference and Main Conference, three days (3/12/19-3/14/19)  $250

**Includes Coffee & Lunch for the Nature-Based Pre-Conference: Continental Breakfast and Snack for the Child-Initiated Learning: Exploration and Implementation Pre-Conference (Lunch on your own): Continental Breakfast, Lunch and Break/Snack for the Main Conference-March 13-14.

Registration Closes: March 1, 2019

Hotel: A block of rooms is being held until February 22, 2019, at the Madison Concourse Hotel at the state rate of $82/single and $122/double.

Direct Reservation Link (no code needed):

Reservation Phone Number: 800-356-8293 (PEC 2019)

Register Here!

For questions about the conference or registration, please contact Jennie Mauer at or 608-261-2137

PEC Conference Flyer



Research Related to 4K

Wisconsin does not have data to correlate student performance on statewide tests with past 4K participation. Wisconsin, however, was one of the states that participated in the National Center for Early Development & Learning Multi-State Study of Pre-Kindergarten & Study of State-Wide Early Education Programs (SWEEP). The full report provides a descriptive picture of pre-k children and classrooms across eleven states. Although the authors caution the study was not an experiment in which children were randomly assigned to either attend pre-k or not, making it impossible to know how much of the gains in children’s academic and social skills were caused by their pre-k experiences, they believe the study helps better understand the issues, problems, and opportunities within pre-k education. Information specific to Wisconsin and the children that participated in a 4K program was summarized and shared with the state.  See a summary here.

The State of 4K in Wisconsin

More of Wisconsin’s children are enrolled in 4-year-old kindergarten than ever before. Learn more about the demographic trends of 4K by reviewing the 2017 State Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Four-Year-Old Kindergarten Presentation. The presentation includes summary data on 4k enrollment, attendance, suspensions, and retention across race, economic status, disability indicators, and district poverty levels. See how far Wisconsin’s 4K programs have come in the last five years, as well as the areas in which we should continue to focus our efforts to promote high quality early childhood education opportunities for all of Wisconsin’s children. I

In October of 2018, updates about the progress of the State Superintendent's Advisory Council's 2016 Recommendations were presented to shared with council members. 4K Advisory Council Presentation Information about the current direction of the council can be found in the October 2018 Council Notes. The council's next full meeting will be in May of 2019. 

Impact of Community Approaches

Benefits and Impact of 4K Community Approach Website: The Office of Early Learning is pleased to announce our new website that helps tell the story of what makes 4-year-old kindergarten community approaches (4KCA) so good for children, families, child care, school districts, Head Start, community programs, and the general public. We invite you to read and view the great stories from communities throughout Wisconsin as they share their perceptions of 54 benefits communities commonly realized after implementing 4KCA. In addition to the stories of the benefits, you can find Wisconsin Storyteller Bob Kann’s Storytelling Techniques and other strategies to help frame your own community’s story.

As enrollment in Wisconsin’s 4-year-old kindergarten (4K) grows, interest in measuring 4K’s impact on child development has also increased. A variety of studies the positive impact of these programs on children, society, and the economy: Research on 4YK

Four-Year-Old Kindergarten Start Up Grants

The 2008 state budget began start up grants for school districts wanting to implement 4-year-old kindergarten. The statutes required priority to school districts using community approaches to 4K through partnerships with child care and Head Start. Go to our Four-Year-Old Kindergarten Grants page for more details.

The Unique History of 4-Year-Old Kindergarten in Wisconsin

This policy brief examines the remarkable history of 4-year-old Kindergarten (4K) in Wisconsin. The paper explores key developments, starting with the inclusion of education for 4-year-olds in the 1848 Constitution and the establishment of first private kindergarten in the country in Watertown in 1856, and follows the surge in public education for 4-year-olds in the late 1800s, the decline from 1920-1970, and the resurgence from 1980-2010. The policy brief examines the causes of the rapid growth in the last 15 years and the emergence of the community approach to 4K, and lays out several implications for the future.  

Additional information about Wisconsin's 4K and 5K history is captured in An Abbreviated History of 4- and 5-Year-Old Kindergarten in Wisconsin: 1840-2017

Visit the 4-Year-Old Kindergarten Companion Website

You can learn more about Community Approaches to 4K and the Forces for Four-Year-Olds initiative by visiting our Websites. You will find more information including: testimonials, financial guidance, and program evaluation.

Other Information About Four-Year-Old Kindergarten

Lessons Learned from Community Approaches

More and more school districts are taking community approaches to 4-year-old kindergarten by offering the program in an array of settings including schools, childcare, and HeadStart. The following links will help you learn more about these approaches.

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For questions about this information, contact Sherry Kimball (608) 267-9625