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Flagstaff education advocates set focus on preschool, tech ed

February 22, 2018
Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Arizona Daily Sun

LAUNCH Flagstaff has released its first baseline report on education in Flagstaff. The organization focused on two of its five goals in the report: kindergarten readiness and post-secondary education and training.

The organization plans to take the data back to its volunteer partners to determine the best possible solutions to meet the education needs of all of Flagstaff’s children, said Paul Kulpinski, LAUNCH’S partnership director.

LAUNCH used information gathered from Arizona First Things First, Flagstaff Unified School District, the 2013 Coconino County Education Report, the 2017 Coconino County Community Needs Assessment and the 2017 Regional Health Equity Assessment.

In the kindergarten readiness area, LAUNCH found that 47 percent of 5-year-olds in 2013 in Flagstaff were ready for kindergarten. Boys were less prepared for kindergarten than girls and students from low-income families were less ready than those from families with higher incomes.

LAUNCH also looked at a cohort of about 107 third-graders who participated in KinderCamp in 2013, got a Kindergarten Development Assessment when they entered kindergarten at FUSD and took the third-grade English Language Arts section of AzMERIT last spring.

From this cohort, LAUNCH found that students who had strong reading skills when they entered kindergarten had a higher score on the AzMERIT English Language Arts section in third grade. They also found a relationship between a child’s preschool experience, their family’s income status and their parents’ education level and their score on AzMERIT.

LAUNCH also surveyed about 116 families with preschool age children in September and found that most parents (53 percent) chose their child’s preschool based on financial reasons. The next highest factor (23 percent) was educational enrichment activities.

Those same parents rated affordable quality preschool (at 34 percent) as the greatest item that would help them prepare their child for kindergarten.

Kulpinksi said one of the items LAUNCH wants to focus on in the near future with its members is to increase the quality of preschools and their number in the Flagstaff area. According to information from First Things First, approximately 77 percent of children up to age 4 are not enrolled in a preschool or are enrolled in preschool of unknown quality. The organization also wants to make sure that all Flagstaff parents have an equal opportunity to enroll their child in a quality preschool. The organization is still working on its definition of “quality preschool education.”