Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Kindergarten Readiness Guidelines Launch
October 19, 2004

Good morning. Thank you for coming. I am joined by Terry Bergeson, our superintendent of public instruction.

We’d like to welcome the members of our early learning community who are with us, including:
· Garrison Kurtz—Foundation for Early Learning
· Dr. Bette Hyde—Superintendent of the Bremerton School District
· Janice Yee—Denise Louie Head Start Program

We would also like to thank the wonderful teachers and staff at the Tiny Tots Development Center for hosting us here today.

We want to especially thank the center’s director, Angie Hicks-Maxie. Angie is truly a champion of early learning, and it’s evident in the great work she’s done here. Tiny Tots serves children of low-income families, and has an outstanding Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, better known as ECEAP. It’s exciting to see so many bright young faces, eager to learn.

We’re here today for our children. We want all Washington children ready and eager to learn when they enter school. If children aren’t prepared for kindergarten, they often fall behind – and run the risk of never catching up.

It’s vital that our children enter kindergarten with the proper knowledge and skills they need to succeed. The Early Learning and Development Benchmarks that we’re unveiling today ensure that all child care providers, preschool teachers and parents have a common set of expectations of what children should know, and be able to do, before they enter kindergarten. These are voluntary guidelines.

Currently, there is no common definition of what “ready for kindergarten” means. Too many children, in our state and, indeed, across the country are entering kindergarten unprepared.

Learning must begin at home, from birth. Through the work of organizations like the Governor’s Commission on Early Learning, co-chaired by First Lady Mona Locke and Melinda Gates, we know that what children learn from birth to age five is extremely important to their intellectual, social and physical development.

Research shows that learning begins at birth and that developmental experiences in the early years, at home and at child care centers, have a profound impact on a child’s later success in school.

Child care must not be viewed as babysitting, but rather as part of the education process. That’s why parents, caregivers and educators need a common understanding of what it means to be “ready for school.”

These benchmarks describe what children need to know and be able to do when they enter school. They cover the five primary domains of learning for young children:
· Physical health, well-being and motor development;
· Social and emotional development;
· Approaches toward learning;
· Cognition and general knowledge; and
· Language and communication.

The benchmarks outline goals under each of these categories and give examples of indicators of progress and strategies that adults can use to support development.

Let’s look at some of the benchmark examples under General Knowledge. The poster we have on display here deals specifically with the area of “logic and reasoning.” The goal is for children to successfully demonstrate an awareness of cause and effect. In the interest of time, we have only provided a few examples under each age group.

The benchmarks state that, from birth to 18 months, children should be able to:
· Use sounds, gestures and movements to communicate with adults; and
· Act on an object making a pleasing sight, sound or motion.
Adults are encouraged to:
· Demonstrate and explain the relationships between things – like showing children that “When you pull the drain plug, the water goes away” or “When you turn the crank, the jack pops out of the box.”

From 18 months to 36 months, children should be able to:
· Express an understanding of cause and effect. For example, they should understand “The room will be dark when you turn off the light.”
Adults are encouraged to:
· Describe how objects change when acted upon. For example, “The batter turns into cake or the water turns into ice.”

From 36 months to 60 months, children should be able to:
· Identify objects that influence or affect other objects. For example, “The sun makes the ice melt.”
Adults are encouraged to:
· Ask children about cause and effect relationships like “What does it take to make flowers grow?”

By kindergarten entry, children should be able to:
· Recognize which element of an object causes the effect. For example, “The beads inside the box make the noise.”
Adults are encouraged to:
· Provide children with multiple materials to create experiments.

Now, with more on why these benchmarks are so essential for our children, it’s my pleasure to introduce Dr. Terry Bergeson, our superintendent of public instruction. Terry…

Thanks Terry.

Next up, I’d like to invite Angie Hicks-Maxie, the director of the Tiny Tots Development Center, to say a few words. Angie served on our advisory panel that helped develop the benchmarks. Angie…

Thanks Angie, and keep up the great work!

The guidelines we’ve unveiled today are part of a larger strategy – to create a seamless education system in our state from early learning through higher education.

The development of these benchmarks was truly a partnership – between the Governor’s Office, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and our Benchmark Advisory Panel.

We also enlisted the help of renowned early learning expert Dr. Lynn Kagan and a team of experts from the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia University to draft the readiness guidelines.

These guidelines are preliminary, and will be reviewed and discussed by early learning stakeholder groups during the next several months.

Today, we have taken another step forward in improving education in our state. These guidelines will give children a better opportunity to succeed in school by giving parents, child care providers and preschool teachers a better understanding of what our kids should know, and when.

Thank you.

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