Have a Heart for Kids Day rally, 2015

To close the opportunity gap, start early

Adam 01/21/13

Lawmakers began the 2013 legislative session in Olympia last week – a session that will be marked by a lot of dialog about our state’s commitment to educational opportunity for all children. New data should help elected officials see the potential for early learning to maintain our commitment to that opportunity.

The Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) released new information about children starting their first year in K-12 on Thursday. WaKIDS assessed one in four of the state’s 83,000 students attending full-day kindergartens.

The assessments show that the opportunity gap is visible in the first few weeks of kindergarten. Children of color scored lower in cognitive, literacy and math aspects of the assessment than white children. It’s concrete proof that the disparities in reading and math scores found on standardized tests in later grades, and the disproportionate number of students of color who leave school without a diploma,  is caused in part by a dearth of quality early childhood learning experiences.

Today’s kindergarteners are the most diverse group of students in the history of our state’s public education system. Squandering any child’s potential: that’s wrong. And the children in our kindergartens right now are are the parents, workers, entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow. Addressing this opportunity gap is not only a moral imperative – it’s an economic necessity.

As lawmakers continue their work over the coming months, the Children’s Alliance and its friends in Olympia will be reminding legislators of the value of high quality early learning, and asking them to expand the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program in the next two-year budget.