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Kinder Teachers Say Preschool Promise Grads Have the Skills to Succeed

Last school year, 192 four year olds across Multnomah County attended the first year of publicly funded preschool at Early Learning Multnomah’s (ELM) nine Preschool Promise sites. The preschools are designed to serve children of color and low-income families who haven’t had access to high-quality preschool options before. 

Preschool Promise graduates are now in the second half of their kindergarten year. As part of ELM's ongoing assessment of this work, we wanted to know—how are they doing? Are they more prepared? What effect did preschool have on their ability to succeed in kindergarten?

To find out, we went straight to the source: their kindergarten teachers. 

Specifically, we heard from kindergarten teachers who are teaching Preschool Promise graduates from Mill Park Elementary, Shaver Elementary, and Prescott Elementary. They all say Preschool Promise graduates had one thing in common—they started kindergarten with the skills to thrive and help their classmates succeed, too.

Here’s what kindergarten teachers are saying about their Preschool Promise graduates.

They have strong foundational skills for reading. 

“The kindergarteners who attended Mill Park preschool came in knowing almost all of their letters and sounds, which put them in the position to start other reading skills at least three months ahead of previous years with no preschool students.”

Whitney Soule, Kindergarten Teacher, Mill Park Elementary 

“A significantly higher number of children were ready to learn to read than the past two years. They were more likely to have some phonemic awareness (measured by the first sound fluency test). Poor phonemic awareness is the strongest indicator of future problems in reading, and is a skill that most white middle class English speaking students have in place before starting Kindergarten. In the past, many of our students (mostly minority English Language Learners living in poverty) have had to play catch up on this skill.”

Tess Brown, Title 1 Teacher, Mill Park Elementary

They know how school works. 

“The incoming students who attended preschool knew school routines, rules, and how school works, which then maximizes teaching time. They have social skills! They can share, collaborate, and problem solve.”

Whitney Soule, Kindergarten Teacher, Mill Park Elementary 

“I have noticed that the preschool students were more capable of behaving like a learner at the beginning of the year: listening to a story, following directions, learning how to log onto a computer, asking for help, taking turns, and sharing. Even though everyone in the room didn't attend preschool, having a strong proportion of students who did appeared to help the other students learn how to be in school—they had role models right there at their tables and on the carpet!”

Tess Brown, Title 1 Teacher, Mill Park Elementary

They are collaborative leaders who contribute to their community. 

“Students brought their own culture with them, a culture founded upon helpfulness, friendship and caring. This has had a huge impact on my class. Usually these are traits that take months to cultivate among students, but with the students from the teaching preschool it feels like my class has had a stronger sense of community from the get-go. I know that the other students have picked up on this culture and have been positively influenced by it.”

Emma Small, Kindergarten Teacher, Shaver Elementary 

 “I have been astonished at how all of the preschool children collaborate with their peers and how they take on leadership roles helping others use materials with care or respect the classroom environment. These children show great pride in their work and take great interest in all the materials given to them. They treat with care, they can find the beauty in any material, and are the first to help ensure our learning environment is a positive place for all.”

Courtney Mutschler, Kindergarten Teacher, Shaver Elementary 

“The main thing that I have noticed is how confident the students are in sharing their thinking. They do not shy away from adding their ideas to discussions. Their vocabulary and way of speaking demonstrates a higher level of thinking. They frequently build upon others' ideas and comments during classroom discussions. I have also noticed that these former preschoolers always have questions, which I love!”

Sarah Lamb, Kindergarten Teacher, Prescott Elementary

They are focused, excited and active learners.

“The students that I have from the preschool are ready and excited to learn. I am impressed by their willingness to take risks in their learning, like always being brave and having a give-it-a-go attitude, particularly when it comes to reading and writing.”

Emma Small, Kindergarten Teacher, Shaver Elementary 

“The stamina of our former preschool cohort far exceeds their peers who have not had the same experience. During our reading and math explore, many of our former preschool children are willing to stay at a center and focus on the given task. This also reflects a willingness to embrace new opportunities with provocations or materials that are new to them. There is curiosity and a comfort with uncertainty that is reflected in this willingness to embark on new adventures.”

Abby Brown, Kindergarten Teacher, Prescott Elementary 

Here at ELM, we were so excited to hear this early encouragement from kindergarten teachers about Preschool Promise. But we were also not surprised by what they had to say. We know that high-quality preschool experiences prepare children for school and give them foundational skills for life. And we are working to create more of these quality early learning opportunities for more children. 

We can’t wait to hear what else is in store for current and future Preschool Promise graduates in Multnomah County and across the state. We truly appreciate the hard work, passion and dedication of teachers at each of the Preschool Promise sites, as well as the kindergarten teachers who have carried the work forward. Their time and energy has an early and lasting impact on the lives of children and their families.