OLYMPIA – Early learning advocates cheered when it was announced in December that our state would receive a $60 million Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant. Yesterday, the legislature gave final approval to a measure that will enable many more children in Washington to reap the benefits of this grant.

House Bill 2586, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Kagi (D – Lake Forest Park), commits Washington to statewide implementation of a skills inventory for incoming kindergarteners. It is called the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, or WAKids, and the grant funding will allow tens of thousands of children to be assessed as they transition from preschool to kindergarten.

“This is another example of Washington’s innovative early learning efforts that aim to help children start school on the right foot,” Kagi said. “The passage of this bill is great news for both teachers and parents, who through WAKids become partners as children make that all important start in their educational careers.”

A recent WAKids pilot project of 1700 incoming kindergarteners revealed that nearly one third of them were not prepared because they lacked the necessary skill level in one area or another. Doing a skills inventory of a child allows that child’s teacher and parents to be better informed of strengths and weaknesses, and enables weaknesses to be addressed sooner rather than later.

“It’s so important to involve parents right from the start,” Kagi said. “Parental involvement increases a child’s chances for success in school, and fosters a strong support network for the child that includes teachers and other educators.”

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