Tempe Invests in Early Learning and Creates Preschool Classes for Low-Income Residents

Tempe, AZ | Submitted by Marie Raymond

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Despite the fact that quality early learning experiences have big benefits, few Arizona youth have the chance to prepare adequately for kindergarten. The early years of a child’s learning are some of the most formative, and the city of Tempe has taken big steps toward helping all of their children succeed.

A pilot project that was two years in the making will create 20 preschool classrooms for hundreds of children who would otherwise be unable to afford a high-quality preschool experience.

Working in conjunction with Tempe Elementary School District and Kyrene Unified School District, the city of Tempe is the first Arizona city to make a commitment this sizable to early learning.

When the topic was first broached and a feasibility/needs study commissioned, city leaders were surprised to learn how many children in their city are living in poverty, and how many enter kindergarten unprepared. Tempe is not alone; statewide a mere one in five 3 and 4 year olds are enrolled in quality early learning settings. With an eye toward the Arizona Education Progress Meter goal of improving that to 45 percent by the year 2030, Tempe officially launched Tempe PRE, which would increase school readiness and give these students a leg up on academics.

In its first year, Tempe PRE reached 360 youth who come from families with an average income of $26,500. Small classes, taught by experienced educators allowed students to grow by leaps and bounds. In fact, the number of students who met or exceeded developmental expectations in math, cognitive abilities, language and physical learning doubled over the start of the year. And a significant number of students saw gains in other areas, such as social/emotional skills.

The initiative isn’t just good for the families involved. Access to high-quality early learning is good for business and can be a significant determinant when companies are looking to relocate. This is just one piece of Tempe’s education initiatives, which encompass the entire cradle-to-career continuum.

Learn more at Tempe.gov/TempePre.

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