If a great kindergarten teacher is worth $320,000, then Denver's seven-year-old "advanced kindergarten" program could certainly be valued at a few million. According to data from Denver Public Schools, as reported by Education News Denver, students schooled in one of the classes, offered in eight area schools, eventually grow into the top elementary school kids in the city.
This year, 459 students applied for the one of 200 spots in advanced kindergarten, which employs individualized learning to send many of its kids to first grade already reading and doing arithmetic at a second-grade level. In fairness, it's not all the classroom experience: The majority of these students arrive in advanced kindergarten already reading. Many of the parents are willing to drive their kids across town to be in the classes—implying that there is solid push toward learning coming from the home.
Fewer that 25 percent of the advanced kindergarteners come from low-income families. Among those that are in the program, 89 percent are still reading at grade level in the third grade—only 7 percent fewer than their more affluent peers.
The majority of advanced kindergarten students are able to matriculate to gifted programs offered at various Denver schools. But there is an issue with some parents having to do a lot of shopping to find a first grade class that can accommodate and maintain their kid's accelerated path.
One boon to Denver Public Schools is that the advanced kindergarten program allows them access to students that would normally end up in surrounding suburbs, like Englewood and Sheridan. These extra kids not only represent potential high achievers that can bring prestige to the system, they also are a source of much-needed money.