Preschool Jump-Starts Student Learning

Wishon Elementary School preschool teacher Andrea Wall works with Sonny Molina while Jae'da Worthy waits her turn. (Fresno Unified School District)

Enrollment in Fresno Unified preschool has more than doubled in the past four years, with the number of preschoolers learning in district classrooms expected to top 3,200 in the coming school year.

The jump in enrollment reflects the district's additional investment of $10 million to hire more teachers and staff and add preschools to eight additional sites and add additional preschool classes at 10 other schools. The district is currently serving 3,121 preschoolers compared to 1,293 in 2011.

Including programs for infants and toddlers, the district is serving 3,266 children from birth to 4 years old this year.
This means that more students are entering kindergarten better prepared, academically and socially. In addition, district staff is able to intervene earlier to help young learners who may struggle.

"I am incredibly pleased with the growth that we have made as a system in supporting our amazing preschoolers throughout the community," said Superintendent Michael Hansen.

A large body of research connects student achievement with participation in preschool, also known as prekindergarten. For example, a study published by Arthur Reynolds and a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin in 2007 found that children who attended a high quality preschool were more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to need special education, be held back a grade or get in trouble with the law than students who did not attend preschool.

The district began the building process for increasing preschool participation in 2010 with the launch of the Early Learning Task Force. The group reviewed research highlighting the positive impact of early childhood programs, found an inadequate supply of early learning programs in Fresno and committed to increasing access to early learning programs in the district.

The Board of Education unanimously approved the recommendations of the Early Learning Task Force presented in a comprehensive report to the board and community in 2011. Since that time, enrollment in early learning programs has steadily increased each year.


Because research clearly shows early education programs must be high quality to really make a difference for students, Fresno Unified devoted staff and funds to develop an intensive professional development and coaching model. This has proven to be a tremendous success, providing increased support for individual learners in preschool classrooms.

In addition, the district secured the Starting Smart and Strong Initiative, a grant supported by the Packard Foundation, and is creating innovative practices to improve the quality of adult-child interaction for early learners. For example, providing resources to families, extended families and informal caregivers so they can provide nurturing environments to children.

Also, as part of the Starting Smart and Strong Initiative Fresno Unified is partnering with Early Head Start, Head Start, and Children's Services Network to provide educators with the tools and training they need to create quality connections and engaging learning activities that address the needs of all children.

The district is already seeing the benefits of these practices for children, service providers and interagency collaboration across Fresno.

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Enrolling in Preschool

  • Enrollment for preschool for 2016-17 school year has been underway since late March

  • To enroll, call (559) 457-3682 or (559) 457-38023

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