While the national debate rages over the benefits of early childhood education, an innovative, district-wide early childhood education initiative is bearing fruit in Bremerton, Washington. Since the initiative's founding, the percentage of Bremerton children entering Kindergarten knowing their letters has shot from 4% to over 50%. The percentage of Kindergarteners needing specialized education services has plummeted from 12% to 2%. And the share of first graders reading on grade level has risen from 52% to 73%.
Last week, I spoke with a woman at the center of the program: Linda Sullivan-Dudzic, the district's Director of Special programs. She described some keys to the program's success. The district:
- Aligns existing school and community resources
- Raises the quality of existing preschools rather than creating new ones
- Focuses on literacy and numeracy
- Heeds the research, and
- Holds all providers to high standards of quality
Read extensive highlights from our interview with Sullivan-Dudzic:
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: What are the major goals of Early Childhood Care and Education Group, and what do you believe you've accomplished in striving towards those goals?
SULLIVAN-DUDZIC: We have two goals. [The first is] to increase the number of children entering kindergarten with early literacy skills--and now we've added early math foundation skills. And the second goal is to decrease the number of children, students, with learning disabilities or learning differences associated with reading.
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: And do you feel like you've made headway in reaching your goals?
SULLIVAN-DUDZIC: Yes. In literacy definitely. We're just starting in math. We have decreasing numbers of kids qualifying as learning disabled, and we have increasing numbers of kids entering kindergarten with early reading foundation skills.
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: So you have all kinds of community partners?
SULLIVAN-DUDZIC: Sure. I started 29 years ago with Head Start, as a ...