Kids Count, an organization dedicated to gathering and displaying data for the public and policy makers, released a report on Tuesday, April 1 showing a disparity between the education level of ethnic groups in Washington. Asian and Pacific Islanders scored the highest at 760, while Latino children scored the lowest at 377.
Kids Count collected data compiled as a composite score to show how kids in Washington are measuring up in testing and emotional standards.
Woodring, the college of education at Western, is taking action.
The composite scores are based off 12 indicators that reflect different dimensions of a child’s well-being and cover different stages of development from birth to young adulthood. Some of the indicators include fourth graders read proficiently compared to their peers, babies born at normal birth weight and children who live in two-parent families.
The indicators reflect a positive frame, focusing on aspirational goals and the key pathways for success for youth in different age groups, said Lori Pfingst, research director for the Washington State Budget and Policy Center.
Research shows that if students are not reading well by third grade, there is a possibility of being more challenged to graduate high school, said Marilyn Chu, Western’s director of early childhood education.
“This information [from Kids Count] is really why [Woodring] exists,” Chu said. “A lot of the challenges seen in the report can be avoided with quality early-childhood education.”
The students at Woodring prepare to enter the workforce by earning hands-on experience shadowing and interning at schools, Chu said.
Students at Western are interning at Washington Elementary in Mount Vernon, which has an 81 percent poverty rate, Chu said. They lead an evening family literacy program all three quarters.
“Poverty causes a lot of stress and we know through research that stress can become toxic and affect brain development.” Chu said.
Students in Woodring get the experience of working with a diversity of different communities, Chu said.
“They will be prepared and excellent teachers once they graduate,” she said.
High-poverty areas tend to get the least experienced teachers, Chu said. “It seems like the adversity piles onto adversity.”
Woodring is endorsed by English Language Learner, which gives the students the opportunity to connect and learn hands-on with other experienced ELL and bilingual teachers throughout the district.
“I think it is important to respect the home language,” Chu said.
ELL is targeted toward teaching elementary students English as their second language while maintaining their native language.
“We need to prepare the future workforce,” said Jon Gould, deputy director at Children’s Alliance. “In order to have diverse child education, you need to have a diverse workforce.”
In Washington state about 38 percent of children are living in households struggling to meet basic needs, according to the report from Kids Count.
“In some areas, it costs more for childcare then it does for a college tuition,” Gould said. “And childcare is not optional.”
Washington state also provides a federally funded program called Head Start that was founded in the 1960s and run by local organizations.
“They have huge waiting lists and serve less then half of the children who are high-poverty in our state,” Chu said. “Low-quality preschools don’t change the outcome of kids — we need high-quality preschools that are nurturing and challenging.”