Astoria kindergartners were generally more prepared academically for school than students in other Clatsop County school districts and the statewide average.
Kindergartners are assessed each fall in early literacy, basic mathematical concepts, self-regulation and interpersonal skills. Kindergarten readiness correlates with on-track performance by third grade, a primary indicator of future academic success and high school graduation.
Astoria kindergartners on average answered 12.4 basic math questions correctly out of a possible 16, compared to 11.2 statewide, 11.5 in Knappa, 11.2 in Seaside, 10.7 in Warrenton and 10.3 in Jewell, according to assessments by the state Department of Education.
Astoria kindergartners recognized 17.3 uppercase letter names, 15.1 lowercase letters and 13 letter sounds out of 26 in the English alphabet. Kindergartners in other county school districts, along with the state as a whole, recognized on average between 12 and 14 uppercase and lowercase letters, and between seven and eight letter sounds.
Clatsop County kindergartners generally compared the same as or better than the statewide average in self-regulation and interpersonal skills.
Melissa Linder, the curriculum director for Astoria, said her school district’s favorable results are largely a matter of luck based on how prepared children are when they enter school.
“We have a really strong kindergarten class this year,” she said of the nearly 170 students in this year’s cohort.
Children who attend preschool tend to be more prepared for kindergarten than peers who do not.
About 30 percent of children statewide have some formalized preschool experience before kindergarten, said Holly Dalton, an educational program specialist with the state. Linder estimated a similar percentage for Astoria kindergartners, either through the district-run Kinder Ready Kids program or federally funded Head Start. Between 80 percent and 100 percent of Astoria kindergartners who attended the district’s preschool program have been on track academically as of fall and winter, generally higher than the general population, Linder said.
“Our Kinder Ready Kids cohort are at the top of the list of every standard,” she said.
Clatsop Kinder Ready, formed four years ago by local educators, has been focused on better preparing kids from birth for preschool, kindergarten and to be academically on track by third grade. Dan Gaffney, former director of the group, left in April to begin a one-year feasibility study funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant of preschool needs in Clatsop, Tillamook and Columbia counties. The study is part of determining whether the counties could get private investors to fund universal preschool.
About half of the parents of Clatsop County kindergartners report their child having had some preschool experience, Gaffney said. But that can mean anything from an approved, full-day program to staying with a grandparent, depending on how the parent interprets preschool.
Gaffney is looking at the costs of comprehensive preschool and what existing preschools provide.
“In Chicago, they’re talking 3- and 4-year-olds attending full-day preschool,” he said. “They’re trying to provide preschool and after-school care so parents can be in the workforce. We’re trying to determine whether that’s what our community wants.”
Some parents might want all-day preschool, while some want to educate their own kids, Gaffney said. The state created a developmental guide for what kids should know at each age level and coming into kindergarten, available at tinyurl.com/PreKtoGrade3