A story behind the data

​​Students thrive at Madison dual-language preschool

Preschool students in the dual language class perform a traditional Mexican mariachi song for parents.

Preschool teacher Enny Fortt directs her students to sing their favorite daily songs while parents line up to capture the best photograph of their beaming children.

Songs about the ABCs, days of the week and colors waft through the room – a typical preschool performance, except for one twist: the kids perform in both English and Spanish. Soon, children dressed in white shirts, colorful bow ties and large sombrero hats stream into the room to perform a mariachi song on pretend guitars and trumpets.

This dual-language preschool class at the Madison Education Complex near the Tacoma Mall helps the youngest students develop valuable language skills while preparing them for kindergarten and advanced learning. Tacoma Public Schools offers five different preschool programs at a combined 32 locations throughout the district.

In its strategic plan, the Tacoma Public Schools' School Board named preschool registration a priority benchmark. Over the next five years, board members plan to see the number of children enrolled in preschool programs rise.

Research identifies preschool as a vital stage of a child's educational development. Multiple studies show that children, especially those from low-income households, who complete preschool are less likely to repeat grades and more likely as adults to earn better paying jobs.

The dual-language preschool class at Madison, run by the federally funded Head Start program, shows the diversity of the district's preschool options. In addition to dual-language classes, the school district offers full-day Montessori preschool, Peer Inclusion for children with developmental delays and more. Most programs are free based on income eligibility.  


Students learn English and Spanish in the dual language preschool class.

Fortt teaches the dual-language class at Madison in English for two days and Spanish for two days. Activities include learning math and culture by measuring cups of flour and cooking homemade tortillas.

Her students thrive in the dual-language setting. Every single student in the 2014-2015 class mastered age-level English literacy and Spanish literacy skills by the end of the program.

The class proved so successful that Head Start will added a second dual-language preschool class at Madison for 2015-2016.

"We don't want our kids to lose their home language," Head Start Education Manager Laura Batcheller said. "We want our students to value their culture and home language and be fully bilingual."


Staff from Tacoma Public Schools will help find the best preschool fit for your child. Visit the Preschool registration page or call Early Learning at 253-571-2620 to learn more. ​​​​​​​​​​​