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Benefits - General Public

The goal of the Community Approach to 4 year old kindergarten is to achieve emotional, educational, societal, and medical well-being of all children. This approach blends funding of public and private resources to distribute learning programs and resources community-wide more efficiently, and offers many benefits to children, families, schools, and communities.

Click on the 4KCA benefit below to read excerpts from …. Bob Kann’s Report “54 Benefits…” and to see the results of our survey of community councils sharing the impact 4KCA has had in their community.

  1. Avoid one size fits all and develop programs that fit unique needs of communities.
  2. Improves overall quality of early childhood programs.
  3. Provides a level of service impossible for one agency to provide.
  4. Builds cohesive communities through business and community organizations partnering.
  5. Increases the amount of money available to spend in community.
  6. Increases the options for parents and employers.
  7. Develops more respect and appreciation for importance of early childhood education.
  8. Improves communication between community members supporting children and families.
  9. Builds strong and important links among school districts, 4K sites, and other community programs.


46. Everyone benefits when different programs meet to discuss what works best in their community. By collaborating, communities avoid one size fits all solutions and instead develop programs that fit the unique needs of their individual communities.

Dana Sommerfeld, Director State and Federal Programs, Chippewa Falls, Marcia Flaherty, Manitowoc School District, Bridget Cullen, Department of Children and Families, and Dave Linsmeier of Mary Linsmeier Schools in Brookfield, talk about the affects of 4KCA in their communities at all levels and for many stakeholders.


The flexibility for each community to develop a unique 4K Community Approach program has enabled participants to offer a diverse and varied palette of services for children and to provide creative solutions to community-wide problems and concerns. For example,

• In Chippewa Falls, the school district contracts with an external agency to provide bus service for children. Because of their interest in providing the highest quality experiences for four-year-olds, the bus company designated buses specifically for four-year-olds. When they transport four-year-olds, no younger or older children ride in the same bus. They purchased smaller buses so that it’s a safer and more comfortable ride for the children. They assigned dedicated drivers who receive training in child development, child management, and the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program. The drivers get to know the children personally, and this is a result of a commitment and belief on the part of the bus company that those kids “need great things.”

• In Manitowoc, the continued existence of the community’s Head Start program was in jeopardy around the time when planning for the introduction of the 4K Community Approach program was taking place. Head Start needed more space and nothing workable was seemingly available. The school district asked Head Start if they would like to participate in the 4K Community Approach collaboration and invited Head Start to move into the new wing of the Riverview Learning Center. According to Linda Gratz, the former director of Head Start in Manitowoc, this saved Head Start in Manitowoc. She said, “It was great how they worked with us to make sure we were benefiting, they were benefiting, and the children and families were benefitting…. The thing impressed me most was how open and honest and fair the school district was.”

• In Stevens Point, county nurses conduct hearing and visions screenings for all children in the 4K Community Approach programs. This service did not exist before the introduction of 4K Community Approach program. If families are unable to follow-up the screenings with physicians on their own, the 4K Community Approach program provides resources to help them make sure they’re now able to do it.

• Also in Chippewa Falls, there had been no four-year-old kindergarten offered until the introduction of the 4K Community Approach program. Before the 4K Community Approach, most of the child care programs in the community offered some kind of preschool program, but it wasn’t accessible to all of the children in the community because of the limited financial resources of many families. Recognizing the inequities this created, members of the community began to meet to identify the needs of preschool age children in Chippewa Falls. A broad cross-section of community members participated in these discussions included representatives from the fire department, county services, hospitals, and other agencies who worked with young children in some capacity. Although the “gathering of minds” was not formed with the intent to create a four-year-old kindergarten program, what came to the forefront was the need to create a four-year-old kindergarten program that would be available and accessible to all of the children in the community. The 4K Community Approach program resulted from those discussions. The community saw the need and the school district seemed like the logical partner for community programs and so the collaboration “was born.” .

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47. The overall quality of early childhood programs has improved in communities implementing the 4K Community Approach.

Jeff Bindl, 4K Coordinator, School District of Reedsburg, Debbie Wells, Early Childhood Principal in Waukesha, and Natasha Harris in Racine, share how 4KCA improves many forms of quality.


One of the most powerful and perhaps unintended consequences of introducing the 4K Community Approach program into many communities has been to improve the quality of child care throughout those communities, sometimes even improving the quality of programs which aren’t even 4K Community Approach program host venues. Staff development opportunities have increased, child care programs beyond the 4K sites have received assistance from staff who work with the 4K Community Approach program, standards for child care have been raised, required licensure of 4K staff has improved instruction, and common programmatic philosophy’s and practices have produced a more effective delivery of services. The 4K Community Approach coordinators and other program leaders describe such benefits in their communities as follows:

• Belinda Grantham, Director of Early Education, Kenosha Public Schools:

“The quality professional development for child care staff in Kenosha would not have existed without 4K Community Approach. Because of the connections we’ve made, the KUSD {Kenosha Unified School District) instructional coach is now working with multiple centers through WECA (Wisconsin Early Childhood Association) to be able to provide some professional development in the evening. The training sessions are scheduled during the evening to enable early childhood staff to be able to attend….
I also wouldn’t have gotten a call that I got last week from a center that said they had just adopted Teaching Strategies’ “Creative Curriculum” [a commercial curriculum for early childhood educators} and they didn’t know what to do with it. They had heard we used it and asked if we would be willing to help them implement it, which of course, we will. They were not part of the 4K-CA collaboration. Without this collaboration {4K-CA} previously, there‘s no way as a school person like myself would have thought of doing professional development with anybody in the community. It simply would not have occurred to me that there would be a need there.”

• Heather Cramer, 4K Coordinator, Stevens Point Area School District:

“4K-CA has improved the quality child care throughout the community. We’re offering special trainings throughout the school district that centers wouldn’t be able to afford and provide on their own, and we provide professional assistance for teachers, assistants, and directors. …4K-CA has also helped us in developing a community vision and keeping that alive, which is so important….We’re also proud of partnering within the community and even in-home child care. Even though they don’t do 4K, we’re partnering with them to make sure they’re getting their needs met and we provide other opportunities for them, too.”

• Marcia C. Flaherty, Director of Elementary and Secondary Education, Manitowoc Public School District:

“4K-CA sets a high standard for what early childhood education can and should look like. We used to be in silos where day care teachers were providing education for children in an isolated community setting and the school district had whole different model and mind-set. So by having people come together and talk with each other and share what’s great about their particular world has enabled us to expand the opportunities for what’s good for young child as well as opportunities for the parents.”

• Dana Sommerfeld, Director of State and Federal Programs, Chippewa Falls Unified School District:

“I think we had high quality programs to start with, but simply by having to hire more qualified staff- the teachers in 4K Community Approach of course are DPI licensed teachers- that has brought a different level to the programs. And since we’re offering professional development for their teachers, it’s benefitting their sites. I think it’s raising the bar {of the programs}.

• Deborah Shimanek, Principal and 4K-CA Collaborative Site Coordinator, Manitowoc Public School District:

What are the benefits to the community sites having access to curriculums the public schools provide?

“It is huge that we’re all on the same page. No matter where the child goes to 4K, there is a common curriculum, common philosophy, and a common way of giving progress reports to communicate progress to parents. …And that’s broadened everyone’s horizons.”

Libby Doggett from the Pew Charitable Trust, that just completed a 10 year campaign to advance high-quality pre kindergarten throughout the country, said

“What I like about the community based approach is that it uses what is there and it actually improves the quality for every child. Every child who attends the {child care} center whether they are two or three and they are not getting the benefits of the added funding, that center is going to be stronger because the director and some of the staff are going to be getting more support and special training, and that makes us all better.”

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48. The 4K Community Approach program provides a level of services which would be impossible for any one agency to provide in isolation.

Dana Sommerfeld, Director State and Federal Programs, Chippewa Falls, talks about how 4KCA pools resources.

One of the greatest benefits of the 4K Community Approach program is that it provides parents with the greatest variety of choices to meet their family’s needs in terms of the educational and child care needs for their children. Each community provides options based on the resources and assessed needs of their particular community. 4K Community Approach programs are offered in child care centers, Head Start programs, preschools, parochial school programs, university-based programs, and public schools. Within this palette of possibilities, different programs offer different services for children. One program in any community simply could not provide the diversity of educational and child care options that the “sum of the parts” provides. Hence, the 4K Community Approach enriches each community by providing parents with the greatest number of programs from which to choose the program that best meets the needs of their family.

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49. Through the 4K Community Approach collaboration, businesses and other community organizations have partnered with programs serving young children to provide products and services to families. This helps to build more cohesive communities..

Heather Cramer, Early Learning Principal at Stevens Point Area School District, talks about partnering with community businesses using 4KCA.


Many of the 4K Community Approach programs partner with community organizations to provide services to children and their families, which ultimately benefits the entire community. In Stevens Point, for example, the 4K Community Approach programs partner with a variety of community organizations, including:
• The city of Stevens Point, to use some of their facilities in order to offer fitness activities to families
• Lowes, a home improvement product store, to offer family nights where families can build things out of clay and other materials
• The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where a new 4K community-based program opened with an emphasis of providing education for children with special needs
• The Children’s Museum of Central Wisconsin for different educational activities
• The Portage County Public Library for various literacy-related activities
Several community businesses note that the “Family Nights” at their facilities are one of their most financially profitable days of the year. Connecting families to libraries makes the libraries become more of a resource for families who didn’t previously avail themselves of the many services offered by the library. Planning events and activities where children go into the community and/or community members come into the 4K Community Approach sites also means that children get to know their communities better and are more connected to their communities, which is a foundation for building good citizenship.
By cementing relationships with community organizations and soliciting their input about 4K Community Approach issues that impact the entire community, the community in turn develops a greater appreciation for the importance of early education and a willingness to support four-year-old kindergarten.
Heather Cramer, the 4K Coordinator for Stevens Point explains,
“By asking for their input {the community}, they feel better about decisions down-the-line. We’ve had tough decisions to make on things like budgets, but because we’ve had these open dialogues all along, those topics don’t seem so untouchable.”
Steve Smith, the CEO of Manitowoc-Two Rivers YMCA, describes how the 4K collaboration with his organization builds community:
“There is a great collaboration effort between the school district and ourselves. I think one of the things that’s important is the strength of community. And, what better way to tell that story than by having your school district and your community and your Y and in this case our Salvation Army and the other 4K community programs going out there and doing this together, working together for the betterment of Manitowoc. This is just a positive way of doing it. This builds community.”


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50. Parents may pay less for child care and therefore have more money available to spend in their communities.



The 4K Community Approach program may financially benefit parents if they are paying a lower full-day rate while their child is in 4K. In addition, transportation to and from the 4K community site is paid for by the school district.. Prior to the introduction of four-year-old kindergarten in Wisconsin, if parents needed full-time child care for their children, they had to pay for it themselves. Ultimately, this means that families who participate in the 4K-CA program may have more money available, some of which goes back into the local community, thereby benefiting the local economy.

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51. Employers benefit from working parents having their children receive care and education in one location.


The 4K Community Approach program provides parents with the choice of where to send their children to attend four-year-old kindergarten. In terms of the work place, the 4K Community Approach program enables parents to remain at their jobs throughout the day without having to transport their children to separate care facilities because they can place their children in a program where they can have the wraparound care in the morning, afternoon, or even into the evening. This also means that parents are perhaps better employees because they can concentrate on the requirements of their jobs without having the distraction of having to attend to the care needs of their children. In addition, the 4K Community Approach program options enable parents who are attending school to have the same flexibility and certainty of care for their children as do working parents.

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52. The 4K Community Approach program helps the general public to develop more respect and appreciation for the importance of early childhood education.

Many of the 4K Community Approach programs partner with community organizations to provide services to children and their families. A byproduct of the strong bonds that are forged through these collaborations is the development of a greater appreciation for the importance of early education and a willingness to support 4K Community programs in the community. Familiarity breeds understanding, respect, and appreciation for the 4K-Community programs and for early childhood education from the general public. And, the 4K Community Approach program nurtures a reciprocal appreciation and gratitude for the support of the 4K programs provided by the community.

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53. Having care and education programs in one setting provides parents, educators, care providers, and community social service agencies the opportunity to communicate more easily with each other to support the needs of children and families.

Natasha Harris, Associate Principal at Racine Unified School District, talks about some of the benefits of using a 4KCA:

Having child care and 4K in one setting, and sometimes siblings of a four-year-old enrolled in a program at the same location, facilitates more and better communication among parents, classroom teachers and resource personnel, care providers, administrators, and community social service agencies who work with children and families. Ongoing communications among these interested parties occur more frequently and fluidly because the 4K Community Approach programs are spread throughout communities and thereby touch upon the lives of so many different strata of each community. The collaborations among these interested parties results in better sharing of resources, quicker solutions to problems, and providing more efficient access to necessary social services for families.
Dana Sommerfeld, the Director of State and Federal Programs Chippewa Falls School District, explains why increased and better communication resulting from the 4K Community Approach program is particularly valuable in an emergency:
“If the child in 4K has a sibling, there’s always that connection with the parent. The sharing of information occurs because it becomes part of that family of service. It becomes easier to bring siblings together when a family is having a problem. For example, we had an instance where parent was injured, and it was easier to gather children and send them to a volunteer. It was easier because one system was working together to do that. If a family becomes homeless, we’re able to centralize services through the whole system so that the parent doesn’t have to figure out to how to get their child to the program because it’s all part of our system. So, if part of the problem is a different transportation alternative, we can make that happen because we’re already dealing with that family.”
Becky Wright, a director at Monkey Business Early Education Community in Chippewa Falls, believes critical social services are provided more quickly because of the open lines of communication which have been established between different agencies connected to children and families:
“We had a new family enrolled to the program and they came to Monkey Business. They were from out-of-state. They were at the time homeless-‘came on the wind’- and as soon as we found that out, we were able to contact the director of the 4K program to let them know they were homeless. We were able to hook them up with services in the community as far as getting them housing, getting them school supplies, getting rolling faster on some special needs evaluations that were indicated. We ending up having three of their children at Monkey Business, and they are doing amazing in the school system now from what we hear. I think giving them that great start and giving them those resources are really big. I think the education benefits are great, but for this family because we were able to react quickly and give them all those benefits, I think that really made a difference in their education down the road.”
Becky Wright also believes the 4K Community Approach program promotes collaboration between all of the interested parties that makes everyone more effective. In response to an inquiry about what she likes best about 4K-CA, she said,
“All of the collaboration. Being able to work with outside sources and really work as a team. You’re not as successful with one organization doing it {providing for the needs of children and their families} as you are as a team.”
Increased communication in communities among different child care center directors and staffs facilitated by the 4K-CA program also provides more and better opportunities to meet the needs of children and families. Becky Wright explains,
“…If a family needs some resources or some educational services, we have those resources. We meet quarterly as directors and we meet every other month as teachers. We are able to brainstorm together to find the needed resources or if they {the child or family} need an evaluation, we have that connection that they can come in and do that versus our or their having to try to find out who we should call or what we should do. So services are happening a lot faster.”

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54. The partnership between the school district, 4K sites, and other community programs who work with children and families builds strong and important links among these entities that benefit the entire community.

Lynn Hammen, Director of Education at UW-Oshkosh, Debbie Wells in Waukesha, Sarah Dill in Madison, Jeff Bindl in Reedsburg, talk about stronger communities using 4KCA.

The 4K Community Approach program forges partnerships between educators, child care providers, and community agencies in promoting early childhood education. It is a proactive strategy for providing quality early learning for children of all abilities and making it accessible to all families, regardless of their economic circumstances. The initial fears that the school systems would “steal” four-year-olds from the community programs and negatively impact their enrollments have largely been allayed. Instead, the schools and community partners typically work together in a collaborative, trusting fashion for the betterment of children and families. Similarly, the competition among child care centers in participating 4K Community Approach communities often has been replaced by a sharing of resources and ideas among the centers. It is even increasingly common for one center director to recommend another center to a parent if that center might better meets the parent’s needs. The result is that all of the partners increasingly develop a shared vision and goal of working together to improve their communities.

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