AUSTIN (KXAN) — Less than half of Central Texas kids are ready for kindergarten which is leading to lower test scores. That is a recent finding by the E3 Alliance, an education collaborative based in Austin that studies ways to improve education. Monday begins Pre-K registration for schools within the Austin Independent School District and this year more parents can get their child in for free.
For the first time this year, children who have a parent who is a firefighter or police officer and have received the Heroes Award can attend for free. That was a decision made by state lawmakers during this last legislative session. Also, students who have a parent in the military, speak another language, are homeless or in foster care can qualify for free enrollment. Otherwise, the tuition based program costs about $517 per month for full day school.
According to E3 Alliance, Pre-K enrollment was up by 7 percent in 2016. They also found children who attend Pre-K the year prior to kindergarten are better prepared for kindergarten.
“We find kids who come to Pre-K do four times better than those who don’t as far as being kindergarten ready and it’s so important kids are ready for school when they walk in the door for kindergarten it keeps that achievement gap from starting at the very beginning,” says Jacquie Porter, director of early childhood at AISD.
E3 Alliance’s School Readiness Study showed that only 46 percent of students in the region, and just 28 percent of low-income students, were ready to succeed in school when starting kindergarten in 2016
AISD finds Pre-K teaches kids some important building blocks for school like sharing, getting along with others, and acclimating to a classroom setting.
“Many of our children don’t spend a lot of time talking, they spend a lot of time listening to their devices or TV but oral language development is extremely important and it develops the vocabulary they are going to need to be able to read later,” says Porter.
To register, parents can go to AISD headquarters at 1111 W. 6th St. or directly to their neighborhood school.
“If it’s your neighborhood school you have a guaranteed spot at your neighborhood school,” says Porter. “If you are looking for a transfer some schools are full to transfer students it’s good to come early and put your application in and put in for your transfer.”
Registration documents can be filled out online but parents need to physically bring in their child’s birth certificate, shot record, and proof of residence or income if they are looking to qualify for free or reduced cost tuition.