The race to reading at grade level

Imagine if you will, thousands of young Idaho children at a state track meet. They are anxiously waiting for their race to begin.

The finish line for every student is to be able to read at grade level with their peers at the end of the third grade.

Now imagine, that just before the race begins, some students are not allowed to line up at the starting line with the others, but instead have to begin the race 10 yards behind their peers. Other children are moved even further back to start 15 or even 20 yards behind.

Given these challenging impediments, would it be fair to expect that all the children cross the finish line at the same time?

This is exactly what happens when we deprive students of the opportunity for preschool education. Without the benefit of preschool, children often start kindergarten without knowing their letters, colors, shapes or how to properly interact with their peers in a group setting, all important prerequisites for early reading development.

To make matters worse, many of these children come from low socio-economic / impoverished backgrounds and far too many from challenging home environments.

Without the benefit of preschool, hundreds of Idaho children are starting far behind their peers in kindergarten. Herculean efforts are then required by kindergarten teachers and support staff to try to help these children make up for lost ground.

Tragically, some never do and spend their K-12 years working to catch up.

Given the state’s incredible financial surplus, Idaho can afford to facilitate a pilot project in which we fund preschool for 20 or so of the lowest performing schools on the fall kindergarten Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI). In 2021, the Idaho elementary school “ready to read” percentage was 42%, meaning 58% entered kindergarten lacking the needed skills. In the pilot schools, over 80% of entering kindergartners missed the “ready to read” benchmark.

The pilot would measure the impact of high-quality instruction on preschool students whose parents elect to participate. Even in such a small pilot project, we are confident we would  demonstrate success and see hundreds of our most vulnerable students receive the academic assistance they need, thereby moving them up to the starting line in time to start the race with the other children.

Our children are worth this investment.

Sincerely,

Don Coberly, Teresa Fabricius, Wil Overgaard and Geoff Thomas

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