Rebecca HaessigRebecca Haessig is for­mer direc­tor of edu­ca­tion ini­tia­tives at the Kauffman Foundation. Prior to that she devel­oped strat­e­gy and change ini­tia­tives for a con­sult­ing firm in Washington, D.C. She began her career in inter­na­tion­al devel­op­ment, lead­ing pro­grams to strength­en civic orga­ni­za­tions in the Middle East and North Africa. She received her BA from the University of Virginia and an MA in pub­lic pol­i­cy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She is the moth­er of a pre-school son and a char­ter school stu­dent in Kansas City, Missouri.

Rebecca does not rep­re­sent Do the Right Thing for Kids, but we respect the rig­or­ous, fact ori­ent­ed basis of her writ­ing and rec­om­mend her ideas for our fol­low­ers’ con­sid­er­a­tion.  Her op-ed piece “Kansas City dis­trict should decen­tral­ize and set the schools free” appeared in the January 19, 2016 issue of the Kansas City Star. We present here her first three blogs on her Set the Schools Free site.  Go to the site to receive future blogs.


Kindergarten. It’s an impor­tant year for a lot of rea­sons.

It’s the gate­way to for­mal school­ing, our first “touch” with the edu­ca­tion sys­tem. It’s the first time that we, as par­ents, are asked to entrust a pub­lic insti­tu­tion with the care and edu­ca­tion of our child. And it’s where our chil­dren, we hope, begin to devel­op a life-long love of learn­ing.

From an indi­vid­ual school or school dis­trict per­spec­tive, kinder­garten is the begin­ning of the K-12 stu­dent pipeline. It’s the most com­mon point of entry into the sys­tem, with more new stu­dents enter­ing the sys­tem at one time than dur­ing any sub­se­quent grade.

(Around 2500 stu­dents enrolled in kinder­garten at pub­lic schools – KCPS and char­ter – with­in our school dis­trict bound­aries in 2015–2016).

Kindergarten is prob­a­bly also the cheap­est entry point, with few­er admin­is­tra­tive costs asso­ci­at­ed with acquir­ing a stu­dent dur­ing this first year of school than in sub­se­quent grades.

So kinder­garten is a pret­ty strate­gic year, actu­al­ly. If you can attract fam­i­lies dur­ing this first year and give them a real­ly good kinder­garten expe­ri­ence, you increase the like­li­hood that they’ll become invest­ed in your school, and stay with you for sub­se­quent years.

In the process you hope that they’ll tell all your friends about what a great school you are, giv­ing you some real­ly great, free mar­ket­ing.

The oppo­site is also true. If a fam­i­ly has a bad kinder­garten expe­ri­ence at your school, and oth­er qual­i­ty options exist (per­ceived or real), they are prob­a­bly more like­ly to leave after this first year than any oth­er. Why? Because they have choic­es. They aren’t yet invest­ed in your school and have no rea­son to stay.

(Families who leave will prob­a­bly also give you free mar­ket­ing –just not the kind you’re look­ing for).

So kinder­garten mat­ters. And for this rea­son kinder­garten enroll­ment num­bers can actu­al­ly be an impor­tant and real­ly inter­est­ing barom­e­ter of over­all sys­tem health.

What does pub­lic school enroll­ment for kinder­garten look like across our school dis­trict, both KCPS and char­ter, and what does it reveal about school pref­er­ence? And what do these num­bers tell us about what our district’s pub­lic school sec­tor may look like in the future?

Part Two: Kindergarten Math, Part II: The Kindergarten Tipping Point

Part Three: Kindergarten Math Part III: Raising the Bar

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