Higher standards cause larger Pre-K classes

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Higher standards in education have caused the number of students to go up in pre-kindergarten classes in West Liberty according to Early Learning Center (ELC) Director Missy Johnson.

Usually the district hosts around 100 pre-k students in the ELC building; however, numbers are up to 124 children for the 2013/2014 school year.

The federal government provides Common Core Standards for all public schools, but Iowa Core adds its own standards on top of the the federal government's demands.

These standards have risen the past couple of years, causing many parents to hold their children back a year in pre-K to ready them for the demands of kindergarten.

"I think a lot of parents decided to have their children stay back because they're understanding the greater demands," Director Johnson said, "Doing this helps provide a better foundation for later years."

Those greater demands include expecting students to be able to read as well as know more complex math in kindergarten than in years before.

"Now in kindergarten they're referring to some of the things in math as algebra or geometry, because of what the students have to do with shapes," she added. "There's a demand for higher level thinking."

Math and reading standards were lower in previous years. But assessments known as PALS, and informal reading assessments, are used to make sure students are on par with what the State of Iowa expects.

Director Johnson believes the students are rising to the expectations. Since these standards have been required for two years, the West Liberty Community School District is seeing better results in Iowa Tests from first through third grade students.

Since Pre-K focuses on getting students ready for formal education, most parents prefer to hold them back during those early years to better the students' chances.

"We'd rather have them stay in Pre-K than any other grade," said Director Johnson. "Other grades carry a social stigma."

As for the capacity of the ELC building, each and every inch is being used according to Director Johnson. They're allowed to have up to 20 students in a room, and they're doing just that.

Since they saw a similar boom last year, the district already had enough staff to deal with the high number of children.

However, if numbers get any higher in the years to come the ELC may have to resort to a waiting list. It's something the district doesn't want to do, but will do in order to not over fill the building.

But right now, the ELC sees the number of students, and the way they're dealing with higher standards, as an encouragement.

"I think the large number of pre-school students shows that our community is taking advantage of our services," Director Missy Johnson said. "And we're beginning to see good things from students having one more year before formal education."
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