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Andrea Woolery, Indianapolis Teaching Policy Fellow: Testimony Before the Indiana House Committee on Education in Support of Funding for Early Childhood Education

January 31, 2017
My name is Andrea Woolery.  I’m a kindergarten teacher at Chapelwood Elementary School and a Teach Plus Policy fellow. Chapelwood is in Wayne Township, which is a very urban school district.  My students come from high poverty neighborhoods and many come with little to no prior school experiences. Most of the children who come through my door at the beginning of the school year have never received any type of formal schooling. They’ve usually been at home with a parent or grandparent since birth. This puts my students at a disadvantage in comparison to a child that has had Pre-kindergarten exposure.

No matter what prior experiences these children come to me with, they all have the same academic goals at the end of the school year. It is my job to teach them all how to read, seventy-one high frequency sight words, how to write three complete sentences, simple addition and subtraction, and a host of other college and career ready standards. This is not an easy feat but Pre-K helps tremendously with the process. 

I am very excited to hear about HB 1004. Providing funding for early childhood education will give a lot of children the opportunity to come to kindergarten with reading readiness skills, gross and fine motor skills, social skills, and a sense of independence. These students would enter kindergarten knowing how to write their names and recognize letters, parts of a book, numbers, shapes, and colors. These skills seem very basic but they take you a long way in a kindergarten classroom.

At the beginning of this school year, I began with thirty-one students. Only five of them had any prior school experience. A majority of my students came to me not knowing how to sit on the rug and listen to a story or how to walk quietly in a line down a hallway. They had no idea how to hold a pencil, write their name, or safely use scissors. It takes time to teach these procedures and school rules. The first few months of school are spent teaching my students “how to go to school” versus building on skills they have already been taught and deepening their love for learning. If my students came to me with this knowledge, we could spend this time deeper developing math, reading, and writing skills.

As our standards continue to become more rigorous it is very important that more children have access to resources that will help them succeed. This bill will give a lot of children the chance to excel without falling behind or slipping through the cracks. Getting students prepared at a young age will create children that love coming to school to learn new things each day. Pre-kindergarten school experiences will begin to build their confidence as lifelong learners. If more kindergarten students walked through my door with Pre-K exposure, they would easily be able to rise to the occasion. We could spend time expanding the skills they already have versus spending a majority of our time laying the foundation for their learning. 

HB 1004 would be a great way to begin this process. Getting more children access to Pre-K schooling is the first step in helping our youngest learners get a jump start on their education.  Please support HB 1004, as it is crucial in order for us to see early learning gains, improving student achievement, and narrowing achievement gaps for many more years to come.
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