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The Power of Preschool: Data Shows Participation in Preschool Leads to Greater Academic Success - from The Messenger

February 22, 2021

There’s a perception that preschool is just another form of day care — having little to do with academic development, according to Steph Anderson, director of elementary education.

But recent data collected by the Fort Dodge Community School District shows a direct correlation between preschool participation and academic success in kindergartners.

According to assessments from the 2020-2021 school year, kindergartners who did not attend preschool performed on average about 18% lower than their classmates who did attend preschool.

“They are walking in at a disadvantage,” Anderson said of students who do not go to preschool.

According to Anderson, preschool provides students an opportunity to develop socially and emotionally before they get to kindergarten.

students sitting on carpet listening to teacher

“How to get along with others, understanding their feelings and the feelings of others,” she said.

Language and cognitive development occurs, too.

“They understand and communicate through listening, talking, reading and writing,” Anderson said. “They learn to make decisions and solve problems.”

Anderson said she recently sat in on a preschool class at Riverside Early Learning Center where the teacher was pre-teaching vocabulary words before she read a story.

“I was very impressed with what they were learning and understanding,” she said. “They are listening to stories and talking about stories — learning some simple words or writing their own name.”

student sorting upper and lowercase letters

And not only has the data shown the impact preschool has on kindergarten success, research has also shown that students are more likely to be successful throughout their lives.

According to Anderson, students who attend preschool are less likely to repeat a grade, more likely to graduate from high school and tend to be higher earners in the workforce.

About 30% of kindergartners in the Fort Dodge district did not attend preschool this year.

“To have 80 students that came into kindergarten having not attended any preschools is disheartening,” Anderson said.

It’s a number Anderson would like to see change.

“We want to get every single kid who is eligible for preschool into preschool,” Anderson said. “No matter where it’s at.”

Riverside has a maximum capacity of 120 students.

Free tuition is offered for most preschools, including Riverside. Anderson said the school currently is accepting applications.

Riverside will move to the new Early Childhood center (the former Arey building) to start the 2021-2022 school year with all transitional kindergarten and kindergarten students in the Fort Dodge district. There is no waiting list.

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