DETROIT -

A coalition that reviews Detroit schools and scores them for quality has launched a campaign to get more children in kindergarten.

According to Excellent Schools Detroit, an estimated 20 percent of eligible children are not in kindergarten.

Denise Smith, the coalition’s vice president for early learning, said the reason is because parents don’t know about it or feel like it’s out of reach -- which can lead to lifelong learning deficits.

“The words that a child learns start long before kindergarten. It’s the responsibility of the parent, if they’re in a formal preschool environment, all of those continue to build words,” Smith said. “We know from research that there’s a 30 million word gap by the time children reach third grade. It shows up on their scores and every other way.”

Smith said the “kickoff to k12” campaign works with eight schools to get their message out in the community. They’ve hosted events, sent out mailers and are canvassing neighborhoods to talk with parents about the benefits of having children start structured education earlier.

The coalition also helps parents get their children into the best schools possible.

“By putting out our scorecard, we actually show the performances of schools and make it public,” Smith said.

The scoring is primarily academic front, but Excellent Schools Detroit also takes into consideration the levels of parental involvement at a given school, the school’s community partnerships, after-school activities and teachers.

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