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Finding Inspiration and Rainbows in South King County

School districts get a lot of criticism—some warranted and some not. However, I saw some things the other night that made me want to shout out with hope. It was a beautiful spring night, “The Mountain” was out, the rain had stopped, and there were rainbows…

Weather aside, I saw a beautiful scene at the Arthur Jacobsen Elementary School (part of the Auburn School District). I saw two districts, Auburn and Kent, seriously collaborating on a big, important project. They call it the Accelerating Young Minds Pre-K Partnership.

I saw the two districts doing a great job involving and engaging a very diverse array of parents. I saw districts doing all of this hard work for little preschool age kids who are not yet their official students and, given the high mobility rates in our region, may never be. The excitement was all about Accelerating Young Minds, a great online early learning software tool that helps kids accelerate their brain development in a very fun way. It lives on the web, and a record of the child’s work is saved to make it easy to pick back up and to build on the learning from one stage to the next. The software also helps kindergarten teachers with its diagnostic capabilities, which makes it easier for the teachers to help the kids once they enter school.

Credit Dr. Kip Herren, Auburn School District superintendent, for getting this going and partnering with Dr. Vargas and the great Kent School District team to spread the innovation. Also helping the families take advantage of this learning tool is a great price break from Comcast. They are offering inexpensive basic computers to low-income families (who qualify for free or reduced price lunches) and a low monthly rate for broadband. All of these things help expand access to learning beyond the classroom and the school day.

Great job school districts! You are showing us all what great out-of-the-box leadership can do!