MN Pre-K Education Sees Big Improvement

Posted at: 12/11/2013 10:45 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Local educators in Austin aren't surprised by a new report from the state Department of Education which says nearly 73 percent of Minnesota kids are now ready for kindergarten, a 13 percent increase from just three years ago.

"We've seen just huge improvement, especially in the last two years,” said Teri Wermager, a community education coordinator for Austin Public Schools. “We integrated a whole new language in our building and we're having continual training."

Educators credit the increase to improved access to high quality preschool.

“I've taught kindergarten now for eight years, and I can see already that they're writing, they're even reading actually coming in, which is really exciting to see,” said Jason Denzer, a kindergarten teacher at Woodson Kindergarten Center in Austin.

Denzer not only teaches kindergarten, but also has a four-year-old son, and he said he knows the value of quality pre-k education.

"The ones that come in with preschool are just so much further ahead,” Denzer said. “They're just more comfortable to be in school as well, so it's great to see that they're ready to go."

And experts say for such young kids, that comfort level and understanding of how to behave in school is really more important than actual academic skills.

"They will actually pick up their numbers and their letters,” said Amy Baskin, director of community education for Austin Public Schools. “They need to be able to stand in line, listen to directions, they need to be ready to learn."

But despite the recent success, more than a quarter of the state's kids still aren't ready for kindergarten, and officials said there's nowhere to go but up.

"We feel we're at a great baseline, and we've seen big improvements,” Wermager said. “But we're hoping within the next two years that we're going to take that even above and beyond.”

Educators say the number one thing parents can do to improve their child’s chance of success is to read with their child as much as possible.