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Four-Year-Old Kindergarten in Wisconsin

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Promoting Early Childhood (PEC) 2020 

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March 3-5, 2020 

Green Bay, WI 

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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.

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

Impact of Community Approaches

The Benefits and Impact of 4K Community Approach Website, helps tell the story of what makes 4-year-old kindergarten community approaches (4KCA) good for children, families, child care, school districts, Head Start, community programs, and the general public.  Wisconsin communities share their perceptions of 54 benefits communities commonly realized after implementing 4KCA.  Additionally you can find Wisconsin Storyteller Bob Kann’s Storytelling Techniques and other strategies to create your story, and resources to promote the development an implelemtation 4K Community Approaches in new settings.  

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

Information and Resources:

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 Head Start. 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