Updated: Feb 18, 2013 5:44 PM
GREEN BAY — President Obama recently unveiled his plan to expand federal pre-school programs and increase standards.
So how is the largest school district in Northeast Wisconsin fairing in its early childhood education classrooms?
These eager four-year-olds at the Early Learning Center in Green Bay count out the days on the calendar.
But the district says they can't count on all students being ready to learn by the time they enter five-year-old kindergarten.
"There is a learning gap,” said Christine Fabian, director of the Green Bay Area Public School District’s 4-K program.
The Green Bay Area Public School District says 20 percent of children entering 5-K can't recognize letters and numbers.
Fabian says in the five years of the 4-K program, the learning gap for low-income children has shrunk.
"The reason that we started the program in the district is to give early learners that beginning push,” said Fabian.
Fabian says she was glad to hear President Obama launch an early learning initiative.
One part of his plan includes state-level standards for all centers for early learning. Fabian says Wisconsin is already ahead of the curve.
"The State of Wisconsin already has a system in place called Youngstar,” Fabian explains.
President Obama's plan also includes increased funding for the federal Head Start program.
Currently, 341 students are in Head Start in Green Bay.
The program's director says 200 students on the waiting list could receive better pre-school education at minimal cost if federal funding was expanded.
Educators say it takes more than extra funding to get kids ready for kindergarten. Parents and community members must also play a part."
“It takes the parents, and the community groups to all work together to put those pieces in place,” said Fabian.
Parents we spoke with differ on whether pre-school needs to be more rigorous.
"I think the state should be more accountable, even if the parents have to pay more for it, because they are our future,” said Danielle DeWitt, whose daughter is now in kindergarten.
"I don't think there needs to be higher standards,” said Michael Hoks, whose son is in 4-K and day care. “He's good at his ABC's and stuff and it gets him prepared for what he needs to know."
But parents do agree they want a playful, successful start for their children.
President Obama's plan also aims to increase full-day kindergarten, and expand grants for federal child care.
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