Vancouver schools foundation jump-starts kindergarten learning

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter


Updated: May 30, 2013, 6:45 PM


Did you know?

• Students who are ready to learn save school districts $3,000 per student per year in special education and remedial work.

• The Jump Start Kindergarten program at Vancouver Public Schools to get students ready to learn costs $250 per child.

• More than 50 percent of children who attend Vancouver Public Schools qualify for free and reduced priced meals, a federal indicator of poverty.

• That means more than 11,000 children in the district lack the basic necessities to learn

Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools


Jump Start Kindergarten is working. To show its support for the successful program, the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools committed another $100,000 in the coming school year.

Some kindergartners need a boost — a jump-start — to be ready for school.

In August, 267 students entering kindergarten were given that jump-start a few weeks before school started. The kindergartners at Fruit Valley, Harney, King, Ogden, Roosevelt and Washington elementary schools — schools with high free- or reduced-lunch rates — attended 18 days of Jump Start Kindergarten funded in part by the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools. The 18-day program helped the students learn the basics, such as identifying their name and letters, and be ready to learn when school started.

“It really did made a difference,” said Tara Taylor, the foundation’s executive director.

The program’s successes were announced at the foundation’s fundraising luncheon Thursday at the Hilton Vancouver Washington. The Jump Start Kindergarten students were nearly twice as likely to be at the early literacy benchmark at the beginning of the school year compared to kids who weren’t in the program. Even more impressive, the program’s English Language Learners were more than three times as likely to be at the early literacy benchmark compared to ELL kindergartners who didn’t participate in the program (36 percent versus 11 percent).

The foundation’s birth

In 1988, two siblings at Fruit Valley Elementary School were missing a lot of school. Their puzzled teachers studied the siblings’ absentee pattern and learned the kids were attending school on alternate days. It turned out they were sharing one pair of shoes and taking turns going to school.

When Jim Parsley, then superintendent of Vancouver Public Schools, learned how poverty was preventing students in his district from attending school, he said, “A light bulb came on. It’s an opportunity on behalf of a community that comes together to make a difference.”

He recruited four volunteers to serve as board members and started the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools. Thursday the foundation marked its 25th year of providing basic needs to enable students to concentrate on doing their best in school.

One of the foundation’s first programs was the checkbook program that provides the principals at all the district’s 37 schools to quickly and confidentially help students in need with necessities including shoes, class fees, bus passes and more.

“I’m very proud of the sustained effort,” Parsley said Thursday, “but humbled by the need in this economy. Mark Twain said there will forever be an abundance of ignorance. To paraphrase Twain, there will forever be an abundance of need.”

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515;;