Beyond the Mandate: An Analysis of a Survey of School District Early Learning Programs in Washington State

Early learning programs, such as pre-kindergarten and extended-day or full-day kindergarten, are increasingly considered critical components in preparing children for academic success. Armed with consistent research linking high-quality early learning to a child’s success, school districts around the state have gone beyond the state-mandated requirements for preschool and kindergarten in order to have students better prepared and ready to learn by the time they enter first grade.

In an effort to assess the quantity and quality of early learning programs conducted by school districts in Washington state during the 2003-2004 school year, the Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI) and the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) surveyed school districts in the summer of 2004. This survey was intended to be a follow-up to a 2002 survey of similar nature completed by EOI.

The survey was administered by OSPI through the use of a website questionnaire that school district administrators were encouraged to complete. The survey contained many of the same questions as the 2002 phone survey (school year 2001-2002), and the collection of data
through the web allowed the information to be analyzed in a quantitative manner. EOI analyzed the data collected throughout July and early August for use in this report and for display on the EOI website in the form of a district database.

As a follow-up to the original web survey, school districts that appeared to have had major changes in the past two years in either or both of their pre-kindergarten and extended kindergarten programs were selected for potential phone contact. The purpose of these phone contacts was to verify information provided in their web survey responses, as well as to inquire about several additional topics, including transition-to-kindergarten services and extended learning programs.


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