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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


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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.

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 on May 10, 2019 at DPI. See the State Superintendent 4K/4KCA Advisory Council Open Notice-May 2019  for more information. 

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