Seattle charts path to September launch of Preschool Program

Mayor Murray, joined by Councilmember Tim Burgess and Superintendent Larry Nyland, today announced the path forward for Seattle’s new voter-approved public preschool program. A blueprint for implementing the program will be delivered to the City Council by February 23rd, and the first cohort of three- and four-year-olds will enter classrooms in September.

“Voters recognized that a stronger educational system in Seattle depends on quality preschool that prepares children for success in elementary school,” said Murray. “The program we’re developing will support equity across the city and set its sights on reducing the dramatic opportunity gap between students of color and white kids that persists in Seattle schools.”

The Seattle Preschool Program will be developed using best educational practices. Research shows that age appropriate preschool leads to better outcomes in 4th grade reading and in high school graduation rates. In one study, Chicago children who attended a pre-k program were 29 percent more likely to graduate from high school than their peers who did not have quality preschool.

“This high-quality program will deliver small class sizes; play-based, research-based and age-appropriate instruction; and more support, training and compensation for preschool teachers,” said Council President Tim Burgess. “We focus on quality because only quality preschool delivers long-term results for all our littlest learners.”

A dramatic opportunity gap between white students and students of color persists in Seattle – a 30% gap in reading achievement and 36% gap in math, according to statistics released by Seattle Public Schools this week. African-American students continue to be expelled or suspended at four times the rate of white and Asian students. And Native American kids are nearly three times as likely to be enrolled in special education services.

The Seattle Preschool Program will be developed in collaboration with Seattle Public Schools. The aim is to create a smooth transition from preschool to elementary, as teachers communicate about children’s progress and needs as they transition to kindergarten.

“We look forward to working with our partners from the City of Seattle to increase access to quality preschool programs,” said Dr. Larry Nyland, Seattle Public Schools interim superintendent. “The city’s collaborative approach with the District and community is appreciated as we support school readiness with our youngest learners.”

Today, Murray named Erin Okuno, Executive Director, Southeast Seattle Education Coalition, and Kevin Washington, Chair of the Board of Directors, Thrive By Five, as co-chairs of an advisory group that will help develop the program. The group will be made up of pre-school educators, parents, K-12 and higher education representatives, labor and community leaders to be named in coming days.

Seattle residents are invited to six meetings to provide feedback on several elements of the program:

Family Engagement
Sat, Nov. 22, 2014 – 10am to 12:30pm
Langston Hughes
104 17th Ave S, Seattle
Curriculum
Sat, Dec. 6, 2014 – 10am to 12:30pm
Youngstown
4408 Delridge Way SW, Seattle
Dual Language Programs
Sat, Nov. 22, 2014 – 2pm to 4:30pm
Langston Hughes
104 17th Ave S, Seattle
Teacher Training & Coaching
Sat, Dec. 6, 2014 – 2pm to 4:30pm
Youngstown
4408 Delridge Way SW, Seattle
Teacher Pathways to Certification
Tue, Dec. 2, 2014 – 6pm to 8:30pm
New Holly
7054 32nd Ave S, Seattle
Provider Contracting & Enrollment
Wed, Dec. 10, 2014 – 3pm to 5:30pm
Phinney Center
6532 Phinney Ave N, Seattle

For more information, visit www.seattle.gov/education.