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The power of preschool

Data shows participation in preschool leads to greater academic success

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Remington McClellan, 5, a preschooler at Riverside Early Learning Center, reacts as he plays in the snow Friday. Recent data shows students who attend preschool have a greater chance of success as they progress through school.

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.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Preschoolers in Amber Murray’s class at Riverside Early Learning Center listen in during story time on Friday. Fort Dodge Community School District kindergarten students who attended preschool performed on average about 18% better on literacy assessments than their classmates who did not attend preschool.

“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.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Harlow Davenport, 5, a preschooler at Riverside Early Learning Center, works with letter blocks in Andrea Pavik’s class on Friday. Studies show students who attend preschool have a significantly greater chance at academic success later on.

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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