by: posted Thursday, February 16, 2012
Today's kindergartners are expected to know what first-grade students 20 years ago knew. They need to write their name, know the alphabet, count to 10 and more.
But half of students -- if not more -- enter kindergarten unprepared. School districts are searching for ways to help parents prepare their children for kindergarten.
Students in Ashley Grieb and Stacey Cook's kindergarten classes chose their favorite birds Friday afternoon, moving them up an interactive white board.
Next, the students counted the favorites for each bird, and will work on charting them.
"The standards and the expectations are so much higher than they used to be," said Grieb, who has taught at Newark's Carson Elementary School for the past five years. "Our students are reading independently on their own. They're writing multi-page stories."
With rising expectations for students entering kindergarten, many local students aren't where they should be developmentally or emotionally.
More than half of the students entering kindergarten have been reading below grade level since Licking Valley started closely tracking literacy data in the past four years, Superintendent Dave Hile said.
"That is where the achievement gap begins," he said.
Statewide, one-fifth of students enter kindergarten needing intensive instruction. About 40 percent of students are assessed for targeted instruction, and the other 40 percent are targeted for enriched instruction, according to state data tied to the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment-Literacy (KRA-L) that is given at the beginning of the year.
Twenty-seven percent of Newark kindergarten students were in the lowest tier this past year. Only 23 percent were in the top tier.
"It doesn't mean that they're coming in with the same weaknesses," said Mindy Vaughn, co-curriculum director in Newark. "(The KRA-L) is to give us guidance on where to start with them when they enter kindergarten."
When students enter school behind their peers or targets, it just takes longer to get them on track.
"The bigger the gap, the longer it takes to narrow that gap down," said Jodie Washek, literacy coordinator at Cherry Valley Elementary School.
A new Newark City Schools committee is seeking wants to provide parents with the tools to get their kids prepared.
"When I was going to college, that was the big talk: We can't wait for them to get to school before we reach the parents," Washek said.
The Early Learning Initiative Committee began meeting in November. Washek said the group wants to help provide books and information to parents of young children.
"How do you reach the parents if they don't have a child in the school system already?" Washek said.
At Carson, Grieb and Cook have started a new program called Project Sprout. They conducted their first session in October, meeting with parents of preschool-aged children.
In April, the teachers will have another meeting, this time with parents of prospective kindergartners in the fall.
"We will be giving specifics then on what we are looking for," Grieb said. "(Parents) could know what to work on with their children."
Licking Valley started a local Ready! for Kindergarten program, with classes for parents of young children offered every few months. The district also is a chief supporter of the Children's Reading Foundation of Licking County, which encourages parents to read to their children for 20 minutes each day.
"We're not going to see the effects of that program for several years," Hile said.
Young students behind
A major factor in student readiness is age. District birthday cutoffs range from Aug. 1 to Sept. 30 for the latest students can turn 5 and be eligible for kindergarten.
Licking Valley switched a few years ago to the earlier date.
"We looked at the data," Hile said. "We would have between five and eight students being retained every year. Those students tended to be the youngest each year."
Hile's own children, one who has a July birthday, were held back for a year.
"We left him in preschool, and he took a kindergarten class in preschool," he said. "I've never heard a parent say, 'I regret keeping him back that extra year.'"
Even if a student is developmentally ready, he or she might not be emotionally ready for school.
"Is your child one of the youngest ones and becomes a follower?" Vaughn asked, adding that parents should think about "where that puts them when they are in middle school."
'Words have meaning'
Going into kindergarten, students should know their alphabet, how to write their first name, count to 20, identify basic shapes and more. Many are behind.
"Many of our kids know, maybe, 10 to 20 letters," Grieb said.
The preparedness differs from school to school, district to district and between children who attend preschool and those who don't.
During the KRA-L -- given during the first three days of school at Newark, or within the first six weeks statewide -- students are evaluated with six short tests that last about 15 minutes total: Answering when and why questions; repeating sentences; identifying rhyming words; producing rhyming words; recognizing capital and lower case letters; and recognizing beginning sounds.
Teachers and administrators said the best way to prepare children is just by conversing and reading books with them.
"One of the big things that makes the biggest difference with kids is language," Vaughn said. "They need to hear the language. (Understand) words have meaning."
FULL SOURCE: www.newarkadvocate.com/article/20120212/NEWS01/202120301/Most-children-aren-t-ready-kindergarten