LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Attending preschool in the La Crosse School District is becoming more common. Currently, about 98-percent of La Crosse families have chosen to send their 4-year-old to the district's optional program. This choice helps lay a solid foundation for what's ahead.
"Learning from the kindergarten teachers what has happened to the kindergarten curriculum, I've decided that I want to offer as much as I can to the preschool children getting them ready for kindergarten, because kindergarten is looking quite a bit different now," said Kylie Burns, Hintgen Elementary preschool teacher.
The reason? The state of Wisconsin has adopted new educational standards called the Common Core.
"The common core was designed, really, to help set targets for our kids so they can become competitive on an international level," said Rob Tyvoll, La Crosse School District supervisor of academic programs and staff development, "and so they can have the skills necessary to succeed in college or a career following high school."
Currently, 46 states have signed on to the Common Core with the hope of lifting up education across the country.
"If a family happens to be mobile, the Common Core will probably provide a little more uniformity across the state; across the country, so that the curriculum will be much the same everywhere that they go," said Mark White, La Crosse School District preschool supervisor.
That's because when you adopt the Common Core you also adopt a national set of learning targets.
"So, what they've developed for us are these new standards that indicate what kids at each grade level should know and be able to do by the time they're through with high school," said Tyvoll.
And these standards are raising the bar for students at every grade level.
"We are going to see some significant bump-ups in terms of the rigor beginning in kindergarten," said Tyvoll. "And I would imagine that in a year or so, when we see the state produce the new pre-k standards, we'll see some significant shifts there as well."
For now, preschool teachers like Mrs. Burns are already doing what they can to integrate basic learning skills through songs, games and play, but the main focus remains.
"Our primary purpose in preschool is still the social development of the child, looking at the whole child and what they're able to do," said White.
"If you look in my classroom right now, some kids are playing Polly Pockets and some are working on their numbers," said Burns. "So, we're never taking away that social component."
And while Tyvoll calls the new standards ambitious, he says they are realistic in today's society.
"It'll be a process of years for all the schools in our state, and around the country really, to reach those bars," said Tyvoll. "So, it'll be a process of some time, but I think we're going to see some real positive gains within the next five to six years."