An Abbreviated History of 4- and 5-Year-Old Kindergarten in Wisconsin: 1840-2017
(Last updated: March 2018)
The legislation, committees, reports, and events highlighted in this history focus on those most directly related to 4-year-old kindergarten and 4-year-old kindergarten community approaches. It includes the history of building the role of public schools in early education and collaboration between schools and communities. This summary does not include all relevant legislation or reports more closely associated with child care or family support/education. The history contains links to full-text articles, reports, and other documents.
This document is divided into six sections. Click on the links below to be taken directly to the section you are interested in:
1800: Immigrants arriving in Wisconsin need a new system of schooling. Local one-room classrooms develop to support education in the mostly rural communities of the state. Each community determines when children attend; many allow children as young as 3- and 4-years-old to attend.
1848: Wisconsin makes a constitutional commitment to early education in 1848, when the State Constitution, Article X, Section 3, calls for school districts to be as uniform as practical and free to all children between the ages of 4 and 20.
1856: The first private kindergartens begin in Watertown, shortly after the first “kindergarten” was opened in Germany in 1837 by Friedrich Fröbel. Kindergartens follow the German “kindergarten approach,” but all were private. The classes are open to 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds.
1860: The first public kindergarten opens in Missouri, serving 4- and 5-year olds.
1873: The first public kindergarten opens in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, serving 4- and 5-year-olds.
1898: Wisconsin reaffirms its constitutional commitment to early education when the legislature permits schools to establish 4-year-old kindergarten (4K) and 5-year- old kindergarten (5K).
1919: The legislatures allows local taxes to be levied for kindergarten.
1927: State financial aid is established for 4K and 5K. The first programs open in Shorewood and Wauwatosa under these state financial aids.
1949: 4K and 5K counted as 0.5 pupil for state aids.
1957: Legislature repeals 4K aids.
1971: State statute 121.02 provides several requirements for basic aid to districts. (Note: the term “basic aid” was no longer in common use after 1971.) The statute sets a state aid formula for elementary through high school that causes the state to assume a greater proportion of the costs of pupil education. To qualify for the aid, a district needs to meet several requirements, including that every teacher, supervisor, and administrator shall hold a certificate, license, or permit issued by DPI; that teachers must receive a minimum salary and sick leave; and that school shall be held at least 180 days.
1971: DPI provides guidance for children learning through play and developmentally appropriate practices (original document no longer available).
1973: Act 90, state statute 121.02, repeals the 1971 statutes and recreates the statute by providing 13 standards all school districts must follow in order to receive state aid. This appears to be the first time that s. 121.02 was titled “School district standards.” These standards include requirements for teacher, supervisor, and administrator licenses; minimum salary and sick leave; and a minimum of 180 school days. These standards also include the requirement that schools operate a 5-year-old kindergarten program. Other standards addressed include remedial reading; provision of special education; availability of guidance and counseling; safe and healthful facilities; instruction by qualified teachers in health, physical education, art, and music; and adequate materials reflective of the cultural diversity and pluralist nature of American society.
1980: DPI Task Force studies 4K and reports that the overriding advantage of reinstating 4K is that early education would be available to all children of all social and economic groups. However, the majority of the task force does not endorse reinstating 4K, noting several disadvantages, including negative impacts on Head Start and private child care and nursery school programs. The report contains the first mention of the need for collaboration and coordination between public schools and community-based early care and education programs.
1981: DPI continues philosophy of play and developmentally appropriate practices for kindergarten by issuing Program Guidelines for Kindergarten.
1984: The state legislature reinstates 4K aids a quarter century after financial support for public 4K had been repealed. The change had to do with growing awareness of the importance of early development, boosted by research on early development, fueled by the Head Start and nursery school movements, and influenced by demands from families who wanted 4K. Wis. Stats. 121.04(7) defines state funding requirements in order to count 4K students as part of a school district’s membership for state equalization aid eligibility. Under the school funding formula adopted in 1984 and adjusted periodically, school districts that decide to offer universal 4K share the cost with the state, based on a formula that measures each district’s ability to cover costs. Children are counted as a 0.5 full-time equivalent in drawing down state equalization aid. To count students as a 0.5 full-time equivalent (FTE), a district must operate a program a minimum of 437 hours per year. Of that time, 87.5 hours (20 percent) of the 437 hours may be used for outreach activities for the school staff to link to the child’s primary caregivers. Additionally, a district may add 87.5 hours of outreach to the minimum 437 hours and count students as a 0.6 FTE.
1984: The legislature also allows state school aid for full-day 5-year-old kindergarten.
1984: Legislation, 120.13(14), Wis. Stats, is created which gives school boards authority to establish and provide or contract for the provision of day care program for children.
1989: The State Superintendent’s Task Force on Early Education, Child Care, and Family Involvement recommends: a statewide plan for comprehensive early education, child care, and family services; establishment of local early childhood councils based on school district boundaries; increased roles for schools to involve parents; changes to existing legislation to promote collaboration; collaboration between schools, child care, Head Start and families; and increased access to higher education programs. Following the 1980 report and the 1984 decision to reinstate 4K funding, this plants the seed for the “community approach” to 4K that developed later by emphasizing the need for collaboration and coordination between public schools and community-based early care and education programs.
1990: Governor Tommy Thompson creates the Commission on Schools for the 21st Century. The commission’s report, A New Design for Education in Wisconsin: Schools Capable of Continuous Improvement, makes recommendations related to:
- establishing a school foundation for early childhood (mandating full-day 5K and half-day day 4K, mandatory kindergarten attendance, and Head Start expansion);
- an education market plan;
- interagency coordination among the state departments;
- establishing a community foundation for early childhood systems that includes early childhood coordinating councils;
- schools’ roles in assisting with community-based services;
- foundations for student success (ungraded primary units, reduced adult–child ratios, incentive grants, communication, promoting understanding of diversity, etc.);
- interrelation of social and educational policies (food programs, child/family policies, education health partnership, etc.);
- parent education (access, resource centers, school-parent communication, family leave, parent conferences, etc.); and
- requiring community service credit for high school students.
1991: The state budget bill creates the Student Readiness Study Committee to evaluate Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and other health and social welfare programs to determine how well the programs prepare children for school. The committee issues a report on March 1, 1993, and later disbands. The report (no longer available) makes recommendations related to: central points of access for parents, community needs assessments, schools’ role in readiness, partnerships with parents, state agency leadership, and assistance to communities. It places special emphasis on local needs, flexible program delivery, and parental involvement, and supports the evaluation of results, collaboration, universal access, and information availability.
1991: The legislature adds an additional fiscal incentive in the formula for districts to engage in outreach activities with parents and families. State statutes 120.2 are revised to allow 4K to implement 20 percent time for outreach to parents. Sheboygan Superintendent George Longo and Principal Jeanne Bitkers successfully lobby DPI and the legislature to help fund outreach to parents of 4K students, with help from communities like Stoughton and Plymouth.
1994: The first of three early childhood summits brings state departments and related associations to the table. These meetings lead to the development of early childhood care and education guiding principles and the creation of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners (WECCP). The WECCP has existed as a Wisconsin structure for cross-sector collaboration since this time. Several consistent foundations include a cross-sector commitment to a common vision and a shared website.
1995: Joint Legislative Council establishes Special Committee on Child Care Economics that proposes legislation including establishing local early childhood council grant program; authorization for school boards to lease space, contract for, or provide prekindergarten or kindergarten; and state transportation aid to transport children from school to child care.
1997: Revisions to the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and resulting changes to Wisconsin state statues and DPI policy related to serving 4-year-old children promote “least restrictive environment” for children with disabilities. Districts began establishing placements and providing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) in child care and Head Start. Some of the partnerships become foundational as 4K programs expand. See https://dpi.wi.gov/sped/laws-procedures-bulletins/bulletins/98-09 for additional information.
1999: DPI Learning Assistance Grants help school districts explore new ways to partner with communities around early childhood. The grants support a range of community planning and activities. The Journey Upstream Workshop explores national leaders in system change and how these principles apply to early childhood. It is created as a next technical assistance step for these grants and continues for several years with communities wanting to explore system change in early childhood.
2000: La Crosse, one of the Learning Assistance Grant recipients, pioneers the collaborative community approach for 4K, Community Approaches (4KCA). It establishes four options for the district 4K program: school-based classroom, school-employed teacher in community sites, community site-employed teacher in community site, and outreach to parents not sending their children to 4K. The Wisconsin Association of School Boards features this approach in their June 2000 Newsletter, Wisconsin School News. The article, Sandbox Synergy, describes the La Crosse model that goes on to become the foundation for districts that use community approaches to 4K. More than 130 districts have utilized this approach.
2001: The legislature addresses a proposal to increase 4K aid to full-day. The final vote reduces funding for districts operating 4K programs. The Republican governor, Scott McCallum, vetoes these provisions.
2001: The Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners (WECCP) releases the report Working to Transform Early Childhood Education and Care, which lays the groundwork for future efforts by shedding light on deficiencies in existing service delivery systems and identifying opportunities for government action. The report shares the perspective of services for a child, identifies the main funding streams, sets a vision, and identifies existing collaborative efforts to transform education and care in Wisconsin. The report also defines opportunities for action for government, communities, programs, associations, businesses, parents, and institutions of higher education.
2002: Based in part on the success of WECCP efforts, Wisconsin is invited to participate in a grant from the National Governors Association: Building Public and Political Will for Early Childhood Care and Education. In its report, the state team identifies general weaknesses in Wisconsin’s ability to provide adequate early childhood care and education. Problems include: fragmented service delivery, conflicting eligibility requirements, difficulty in creating full-day services from multiple programs, differing requirements, unpredictability of funding, pay disparity among early childhood care and education professionals, limited transportation, and duplication and gaps in funding. Recommendations include: improving family access to early care and education services by helping communities blend funding and other resources; developing a Children’s Cabinet to guide policies that enhance early learning for children, strengthen families, and promote efficient use of resources; developing a seamless professional development system to prepare staff working in early care and education programs; and increasing the number of high-quality early learning programs.
2002: As a follow-up to the National Governors Association public and political will project, the committee and the WECCP develop Wisconsin Children’s Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care. This agenda sets a vision for all children and families who wish to have access to a system of high-quality early childhood education and care. The agenda makes recommendations for the effective use of resources, quality and access, and professional development. Each goal includes a vision statement and specific recommendations for the state or local level.
2002: DPI issues the first Information Policy and Information Advisory on Four-Year-Old Kindergarten. This bulletin is created to assist districts in establishing and maintaining programs for
4-year-old children. This first 15-question bulletin addresses the history, requirements, and funding of 4K.
2002: A 4K statewide networking meeting becomes an annual leadership forum. It leads to the further development of a statewide conference called Preserving Early Childhood (PEC). This conference becomes important in the development of leadership, promotion of system change concepts, creation of a collaborative vision, and promotion of sharing strategies to support 4K, 4K community approaches, inclusion, and other partnerships.
2003: The legislature again votes to cut funding for districts operating 4K programs. The Democratic governor, James Doyle, vetoes these provisions.
2003: Trust for Early Education, which later becomes the Pew Charitable Trusts, provides funds to the DPI to support technical assistance and a constituency-building campaign for expanding high-quality pre-kindergarten for all 4-year olds in Wisconsin. This grant creates planning grants to promote 4K and community approaches. The project, using the existing Think Big, Start Small: Invest Early in a Child’s Future (TBSS) campaign, sets the foundation for the message. It also expands the infrastructure supporting annual 4K networking meetings and the Preserving Early Childhood Leadership Forum. The grant provides Regional Collaboration Coaches to assist community leadership in their promotion, planning, and implementation of 4k and community approaches. This infrastructure continues in 2017 through a “braided funding” structure. Two documents are created to provide technical assistance to districts wanting to explore community approaches: Community Approaches to Serving Four-Year-Old Children in Wisconsin: Lessons Learned from Wisconsin Communities and Creating a Community Approach to Serving Four-Year-Old Children in Wisconsin: Public Awareness Packet.
2003: The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, funded by the Packard School Readiness Project, spearheads a study to develop a data infrastructure and assess early childhood policies. Their report, the Wisconsin School Readiness Indicators Initiative , presents a comprehensive definition of school readiness, a set of indicators with proven relevance to school readiness, and an assessment of the current availability of state administrative data on these indicators. The report summarizes that, “While all children are ready for school by virtue of having attained the chronological age for school entry established by the state, school readiness refers to the conditions that promote their readiness to succeed in school. Three conditions were identified as most relevant to promoting school readiness: Responsive families and communities; Receptive schools; and Ready children.”
2003: The Wisconsin Association of School Boards publishes a second article in Wisconsin School News highlighting 4K community approaches. The article is an update on the 4-year-old kindergarten program in La Crosse and how it spread to other Wisconsin communities: Has a Cooperative Attitude: Wisconsin Communities Embrace the Community Approach To Serving 4-Year-Olds.
2004: As part of the Early Education Matters project, the Wisconsin Child Care Research Partnership at the UW-Extension conducts research on the progress of 4K and provides technical assistance on 4KCA. Working under a contract from the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, funded by the Joyce Foundation, Early Education Matters works directly with select communities to assist in planning community approaches to 4-year-old kindergarten (4K) by awarding two rounds of one-year community planning grants. Community planning groups have access to technical assistance and individualized training as needed to enhance successful collaboration. They also prepare a series of reports: Charting Progress in 4-year-old Kindergarten (4K) in Wisconsin: Focus on the “Community Approach" 2003-04 and 2004-05.
2004: Governor Jim Doyle creates the Governor’s Task Force on Educational Excellence. The Task Force studies and makes recommendations on school finance, special education, teacher recruitment and retention, student achievement, and early childhood education. The report forms the foundation for the Governor’s KidsFirst Initiative. Specific to 4K, the Task Force and KidsFirst address the creation of a grant program to help cover the start-up costs of 4-year-old kindergarten (implemented in 2017) and full funding for 4K.This report is no longer available but you can see a comparison of the two recommendations.
2005: As part of the Pre-K Now Research Series, an economic analysis is conducted of 4K returns to the Wisconsin educational system. The report, An Economic Analysis of Four-Year-Old Kindergarten in Wisconsin: Returns to the Education System, is prepared by Clive Belfield and Dennis Winters. It finds that for every state dollar invested in 4K, 68 cents would be returned in savings to the education system. With expanded 4K programs, fiscal benefits to the K-12 school system would come from: lower grade retention, lower special education placemen, higher job satisfaction for teachers, more teachers retained by the public schools, fewer substitute teachers, reduced spending on school safety, and reduced pressure on student aid services. In total, these benefits amount to $140.96 million.
2005: As communities explore implementation of community approaches to 4K, there are many questions about fiscal roles and responsibilities. To further support implementation of community approaches to 4K, the Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners begins to develop fiscal information for community partners. The first finance guide is developed in 2005 and revised in 2009. Financing Community Approaches to 4-Year-Old-Kindergarten addresses the fiscal roles and responsibilities of school districts and partnering child care or Head Start programs. The guide includes sections on understanding the funding categories to consider, funding implications for each program, sample interagency agreements, and other resources. Additional funding guidance has been developed to assist in determining the costs allocated to child care programs partnering to deliver 4K community approaches. This guidance can be found at http://www.collaboratingpartners.com/administration-management/fiscal-management/
2006: State Representative Debi Towns leads a Task Force on 4-Year-Old Kindergarten. In 2007, the task force recommends that the state should:
- define a clear-cut purpose for publicly funding 4-year-old kindergarten (included in this purpose should be mastery of the English language, improvement of NAEP test scores, and reduction of future special education needs);
- collect longitudinal data to ensure that the state’s investment is meeting its defined purpose;
- set up minimum practice and academic standards to provide guidance and consistency in achieving the defined purpose;
- consider parental outreach a vital part of preschool programs, not an optional financial incentive;
- allow a direct fiscal relationship between the state and private providers of 4-year-old programs that meet the standards;
- maintain the reimbursement for public school district programs through the school funding formula; and
- tie reimbursement for public preschools to the cost of providing the program.
2006: The State Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Four-Year-Old Kindergarten and Community Approaches is created by Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster and continues under Superintendent Tony Evers. This committee is made up of stakeholders from the child care, Head Start, and public school communities, and has led the effort to build community partnerships and quality in 4K.
2007: Legislature passes $3 million in start-up grants for 4K, with priority for community approaches. The 2008 State Budget enacts 4k start-up grants. Grants are awarded by formula, based on enrollment in 4K programs. The grant program gives preference to school boards that use community approaches to early education, as defined in administrative rule by the DPI. The existing Regional Collaboration Coaches and CESA Early Childhood Program Support Teachers became more involved in regional and district-level meetings to support the development of 4KCA practices. These grants support district implementation of 4K community approaches and 4K. By 2017, 97 percent of the districts have the program, with more than 130 using community approaches.
2008: The 2002 Policy and Information Advisory on 4-year-old kindergarten is updated. The 2008 Advisory updates information generally to 4-year-old kindergarten and especially to 4-year-old kindergarten implemented in community approaches with child care and Head Start. The original 15‑question bulletin grows to 87 questions and goes through an extensive approval process to ensure the policies established in the bulletin are consistent with polices of the various divisions within the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). In addition, relevant questions on child care licensing and subsidy are coordinated with polices from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS) Child Care Licensing and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Child Care Section.
2008: The DPI establishes the Wisconsin Forces for Four-Year-Olds Listserv (Forces44). Forces44 is designed to facilitate interactive, electronic communication among the agencies, associations, and individuals interested in community collaboration related to services to 4-year-old children and their families. The special focus of this listserv is on state, community, and interagency efforts to blend 4‑year-old kindergarten, child care, and Head Start resources and funding to create collaborative programs for 4-year-old children. The listserv continues to provide a mechanism to share experiences, examples, and resources to support communities in starting these collaborative efforts and to continue to develop the approaches that exist. To subscribe to forces44, send a blank email message to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2008: State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster, issues a June 2008 policy letter clarifying the requirements that permit a district to count 4K students for revenue limit and equalization aid purposes. The letter further clarifies that the state’s constitution provides that “…schools shall be free and without charge for tuition to all children between the ages of 4 and 20 years.” Therefore, while the state constitution does not require school districts to have 4K programs, it does require that such programs, where available, be available to all children at no cost to the child or parent.
2008: The Governor’s Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) is founded as a result of the Head Start reauthorization Act of 2007 and Executive Order #269 (April 2009). The ECAC is housed in the Department of Children and Families (DCF) under the direction of the DCF Secretary. The State Superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction co-chairs the ECAC. The ECAC builds upon the work of the WECCP, the Children’s Trust Fund Board, the Individuals with Disabilities Act Part C Birth to Three Interagency Coordinating Council, as well as several cross-sector committees, including professional development and comprehensive screening and assessment. The ECAC adopts three focus areas: quality early learning, safe and healthy children, and stable and nurturing families. Since its creation, the ECAC has issued annual reports of its progress with recommendations to the governor.
2010: The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families issues Policy Brief #6 in its Great Start Series: The Unique History of Four-Year-Old Kindergarten in Wisconsin. This brief provides a comprehensive history of 4K in Wisconsin and set markers for future implications.
2010: The Department of Children and Families (DCF) develops, and the state budget supports, Wisconsin’s child care quality rating and improvement system, YoungStar. YoungStar assists child care providers in the assessment and improvement of the level of quality in services they offer.
2011: The third edition of the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standard (WMELS) brings increased relevance to the 4K world with its focus on alignment with the state literacy standards and Response to Intervention practices. The standards were originally created in 2003 by a unique collaboration across state departments and with early childhood educators and child care providers to reflect a common commitment to quality early childhood education, care services, and programs for Wisconsin’s young children and their families. The standards address five developmental domains and apply to programs serving children from birth to first grade.
2012: The DPI implements requirements for early literacy screening. Based on recommendations from Governor Scott Walker’s Read to Lead Task Force, the Wisconsin legislature requires adoption of an early literacy screener. This requires school districts to administer a literacy screener to all 5‑year-old kindergarten students for the 2012-13 school year and to all 4-year-old kindergarten to first grade students for the 2013-14 school year. The requirement is expanded in the 2014-15 school year to all second grade students.
2013: The DPI contracts with Bob Kann to explore the benefits of community approaches. Fifty-four benefits are identified for children, families, educational programming, schools, and the general public. Stakeholders from the different sectors tell their story of 4KCA benefits. The collection of stories continues with communities submitting their stories through YouTube. The benefits, testimonials, and stories are posted on the DPI 4KCA impact web page.
2013: The U.S., federal, and state governments become more involved in investing in the creation of public pre-kindergarten (preK) programs. In Wisconsin, 4K is a model for preK due to its inclusion in the school funding formula and accessibility to all age-eligible children. Federal funds supports the creation of standards that articulate goals for practice and benchmarks that can be used to evaluate success.
2014: Through a grant awarded by Spencer Foundation, co-principals Mary Elizabeth Graue and Sharon K. Ryan analyze the enactment of preK policy in New Jersey, a highly regulated preK program, and Wisconsin, a local control state. In Life in Early Childhood Settings they argue that standards-based practice is evolving into accountability in public preK programs, where outcomes set parameters for planning and teachers and children are increasingly regulated. As preK is more closely affiliated with the K–12 sector (elementary and secondary), preK programs are subject to the logic of alignment, benchmarks, and assessments. Even when early learning standards support child-centered approaches to curriculum, they are overruled by accountability discourse. The project studies early childhood policy in action. Several reports are developed, including:
- Graue, M. Elizabeth, Sharon Ryan, Amato Nocera, Kaitlin Northey & Bethany Wilinski. “Pulling preK into a K-12 orbit: the evolution of preK in the age of standards,” Early Years 37.1 (2017): 108-122.
- Graue, M. Elizabeth, Bethany Wilinski, & Amato Nocera. “Local Control in the Era of Accountability: A Case Study of Wisconsin PreK,” Education Policy Analysis Archives 24.60 (2016).
2014: The federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant brings renewed focus on supporting development and implementation of 4KCA models with child care as a means of increasing participation in the YoungStar quality rating and improvement system. The grant provides financial support through 2017 to:
- increase hours for a state 4KCA coordinator and Regional Collaboration Coaches to promote 4KCA implementation and quality practices;
- increase funding to Regional Action Team work plan grants to: increase participation in existing networking activities, increase local professional development to increase quality, and provide event sponsorship for community partnerships;
- increase funding for the 4K Network meeting and PEC conference to keep registration costs down, bring national speakers, and provide stipends for child care participation;
- provide funds for local videotaping of 4KCA models and how they address quality and YoungStar; and
- highlight policy development through policy documents and the State Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Four-Year Old Kindergarten and Community Approaches.
2014: The 2008 Four-Year-Old Kindergarten Policy and Information Advisory is updated. The 2014 Advisory provides new and updated information generally to 4-year-old kindergarten and especially to 4-year-old kindergarten implemented in community approaches with child care and Head Start. The Advisory grows to 99 questions and goes through an extensive approval process to ensure the policies established in the bulletin are consistent with polices of the various divisions within the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). In addition, relevant questions on child care licensing and subsidy are coordinated with polices from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS) Child Care Licensing and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Child Care Section.
2014: The DPI endorses and begins promoting universally designed, evidence-based, and developmentally appropriate curriculum and assessment practices as the foundation for Response to Intervention (RtI) implementation in early childhood settings. While RtI begins as a model for K–12 education, the DPI believes that the concepts of RtI can also be aligned with 4-year-old kindergarten (4K) and our early childhood partners in health, mental health, home visiting, child care, Head Start, and early childhood special education. The Wisconsin RtI framework provides a conceptual model to support and monitor child development and learning across all domains as described in the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, including social-emotional development, language-literacy, and mathematics. The project creates a number of resources and best practice early childhood RtI documents over the next three years.
2015: The Wisconsin Association of School Boards highlights the tremendous benefits of several 4K community approach programs around the state in the September issue of Wisconsin School News: Developing Young Learners: 4K programs are preparing students for kindergarten and beyond.
2015: The State Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Four-Year-Old Kindergarten and Community Approaches, made up of stakeholders from the child care, Head Start, and public school communities, creates a vision statement developed by stakeholder involvement that echoes the commitment of national Association of Chief State School Officers’ Equity Starts Early: How Chiefs Will Build High-Quality Early Education (March, 2016).
2016: To assist 4K programs in implementation of the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards and alignment with state academic standards, a process, Planning for Early Literacy Success, is developed to guide teams in understanding how the literacy-related developmental continuums within the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards (WMELS) intersect with Wisconsin’s State Standards for 5K and first grade in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language. Next steps in this alignment work focus on math, music, and social studies.
2016: Due to changes in the Federal Child Care Block Grant, school-operated child care centers that participate in YoungStar or receive child care subsidies through SHARES payments are informed that they will become part of the Department of Children and Families child care monitoring process over the next two years. The monitoring will focus on health and safety practices.
2016: The Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant’s Early Childhood Longitudinal Data Project provides increased access to 4K data. At the 2016 State Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on 4K and 4KCA, some of this data is presented. The 2016 presentation includes new data summaries on attendance, suspensions, and retention across race, economic status, disability indicators, and district poverty levels. The advisory committee expresses concern with the high number of 4K children who are suspended or retained, especially related to racial disparity. This topic becomes an important focus of sessions at the PEC conference and becomes a priority area for the Governor’s Early Childhood Advisory Council.
2017: More of Wisconsin’s children are enrolled in 4-year-old kindergarten than ever before. The 2017 State Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Four-Year-Old Kindergarten presentation shares more about the demographic trends of 4K. Data for 2017 indicate improvement in the area of suspensions.
2017: The Departments of Public Instruction, Health Services, Children and Families, and other early childhood associations working through the Healthy Children Committee update and begin activity promoting the Comprehensive and Aligned System for Early Childhood Screening and Assessment: Wisconsin’s Blueprint. This Blueprint sets a vision for screening and assessment from birth to third grade.
2017: DPI releases a video, Play is the Way, promoting play as key to early learning for children from birth to first grade. The video is a follow-up to the 2017 Preserving Early Childhood Conference keynote presentation by Associate Professor Wendy Ostroff, author of Understanding How Children Learn. In the video, Assistant Superintendent Sheila Briggs and Associate Professor Ostroff talk about how children learn best through play and a how play-based curriculum supports school success in the later grades.
2017: Ninety-seven percent of Wisconsin school districts now offer 4K to all age eligible children in their community. Community approaches to 4K are still strong in Wisconsin, with over 100 districts partnering with child care, Head Start, and/or private schools. Other districts have seen benefits from the community approaches and are beginning to explore how they can become more community-based, especially to meet the needs of working families and low-income children. However, over the years, some districts that previously utilized community approaches have returned to school-based models due to parent interest in school classrooms, changes in their partner’s status, fiscal constraints for off- site models, opening of new school buildings, creation of district early childhood centers, change in partnership philosophy, or other reasons. Program data from previous years can be found on DPI’s data collections web page.
2017: Work begins to update the 2014 Four-Year-Old Kindergarten Policy and Information Advisory. The 2017 Advisory provides information generally to 4-year-old kindergarten and especially to 4-year-old kindergarten implemented in community approaches with child care and Head Start. As with the other Advisories, the policies are developed and are consistent with polices of the various divisions within the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Relevant questions on child care licensing and subsidy are coordinated with polices from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Child Care Section.
2017: The federal Head Start Performance Standards place more emphasis on exploring partnerships as Head Start’s across the state move to fulfill new “duration” requirements for 6 hour days or additional weeks of service. DPI in collaboration with DCF, the Head Start Collaboration Office, and the Head Start Association, are working on revisions to the 2009 Funding Guide to 4-Year-Old Community Approaches.
2017: As seen in previous timeline narratives, since 1971 there have been multiple changes to state statute s.121.02. The current statute now includes what are commonly referred to as “The 20 Standards” for school districts. DPI summarizes these standards, and their implications for 4K, in the Policy and Information Advisory (updated in 2017), as well as in a one-page practice summary.