Hanson says studies show that getting a jump on learning leads to higher achievement down the road. But nationwide, it's families with money who are getting that opportunity. In the future, that could change.
The children in Pam Johnson's transitional kindergarten class are on their way to success because of skills learned in her classroom.
“The focus at the beginning of the year is social/emotional development and a small portion on academics. And then during the year the pendulum swings,” said Johnson, the transitional kindergarten teacher at
In Fresno Unified, the pilot program started last year for kids who turn five after the cutoff for kindergarten. Now it's expanded to half the schools in the district, and soon every school will have it. Pre-school is offered to about 40% of students. Plans to double that number in the next two years are in the works.
Superintendent Michael Hanson applauds his district as well as President Obama, who wants more resources for early learning.
“Kids coming from poverty are dramatically behind without the kind of supports we can get to them in pre-school. We couldn't be more pleased that the president has stepped out and we are very proud that our board was there as an early adopter,” said Hanson.
Fresno Unified diverted over $7 million to pre-school and transitional kindergarten. Hanson feels it's worth it, both for the individual and the taxpayer. Johnson says the program is already having a positive effect at her school.
“Last year at the end of [transitional kindergarten] I had 70% of the class reading at a kindergarten level and this year they've just taken off,” said Johnson.
No word yet on how much the president's education plan would cost. If federal dollars are up for grabs, Fresno Unified plans to utilize them.