Improving the Transition to Kindergarten in Rhode Island (and a great Transitions resource)

Image_1 2019-01-04_17-44-28-resized

My colleagues and I at EDC have been busy supporting First 10 work, including in Maine (13 communities and an inter-agency state First 10 team), Rhode Island, Lancaster County, PA, and Worcester, MA. First 10 in Pennsylvania is now expanding to include the 7-county South Central region of the state. I’ll be posting lessons learned from these initiatives in 2020. In the meantime I want to provide some context about a Statewide Transition to Kindergarten initiative in Rhode Island and share a key document we’ve been using to anchor this work.

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) is making a major commitment to improving the Transition to Kindergarten statewide. The Transition to Kindergarten is an important component of the First 10 continuum and of First 10 school hubs and community partnerships. At its heart First 10 is about bringing early childhood programs, K-12 education, and health and social services together to improve outcomes for young children and their families. Transition to Kindergarten initiatives focus on the bridge between early childhood and K-12 (ages 3-5), knitting systems together in support of ready children, families, schools, and communities. The transition to Kindergarten serves as a natural place to begin First 10 initiatives, and in fact all the First 10 plans we help communities develop include transition and alignment strategies.

We have worked with RIDE to support Rhode Island’s statewide Transition to Kindergarten initiative for the past 15 months. This initiative includes:

  • Providing an ongoing series of professional learning summits and onsite coaching for two cohorts of three communities each: (1) Newport, West Warwick, and Woonsocket, and (2) Coventry, East Providence, and North Providence. Community transition teams participate in these activities as they develop and implement Transition to Kindergarten plans.
  • Documenting these communities’ efforts in a lessons learned and case study publication.
  • Holding two statewide summits to engage and inform other communities around the state.
  • Developing a Transition to Kindergarten Toolkit to be shared with all communities.
  • Conducting a survey of kindergarten teachers’ use of data to inform teaching and learning at the beginning of the school year.

Communities have found these supports to be very helpful, and Rhode Island plans to continue offering them to more and more communities across the state.

We began this work by collaborating with Jennifer LoCosale-Crouch, a Transition to Kindergarten expert and professor at the University of Virginia, whose contributions have been invaluable. Jennifer shared an excellent resource she and colleagues developed for the National Center for Quality Teaching and Learning, Planning the Transition to Kindergarten: Collaborations, Connections, and Six Steps to Success. We have used this document as the anchor resource for all of our Transition to Kindergarten work in Rhode Island and elsewhere. It reviews the four types of Transition connections (child-school, family-school, school-school, and school-community) and describes a six-step planning process. I’m also sharing a companion list of sample Transition Activity Ideas by Connection. Many thanks to Jennifer. We recommend these documents and hope you find them helpful.

Hint: Where Planning the Transition to Kindergarten says, “Head Start” read, “Head Start, community-based preschools, and family childcare.”

The Important Role of the Transition to Kindergarten for Low-Income Children

Drawing on his new report, Connecting the Steps: State Strategies to Ease the Transition from Pre-K to Kindergarten, New America’s Aaron Loewenberg writes in Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity: 

“Transition activities such as teacher home visits; parent orientation sessions; and collaborative meetings and trainings between principals, child care center administrators, and pre-K and kindergarten teachers are key strategies for closing the persistent achievement gap between low-income students and their wealthier peers.

In fact, a 2005 study established a link between the number of transition activities schools facilitated prior to and near the beginning of the kindergarten year and gains in academic achievement by the end of the year. These positive gains were greatest for children whose families were low- or middle-income.

separate study, which focused on pre-K programs, found a positive association between the number of transition activities undertaken by pre-K teachers and kindergarten teachers’ later perceptions of student skills, particularly those of low-income students. Unfortunately, while low-income children stand to benefit the most from a smooth transition to kindergarten, they are also the least likely to attend schools that provide meaningful transition activities.”

https://go.edc.org/c7sd

 

New Case Studies: PreK-3rd Alignment

The U.S. Department of Education recently released a set of case studies of PreK-3rd Alignment and Differentiated Instruction. The case studies are of the Boston Public Schools, the Chicago Child-Parent Centers, Early Works, FirstSchool, and the SEAL program.

The alignment efforts in these programs all emphasize developmentally-appropriate instruction and focus on building students’ vocabulary, oral language skills, and social-emotional skills. All of the programs organize their teachers in professional learning communities and support them with coaches. In addition to the findings across the five programs, the case studies at the end provide helpful detail about each model.

The New America Foundation’s Aaron Lowenberg provides a nice overview here.

Roundtable Discussion: Why Does Investing in Young Children Matter?

EDC recently published a short Round Table discussion on early childhood. Topics include the role of pediatricians in supporting social-emotional development, early childhood education in developing countries, and new research by James Heckman. I close out the Round Table with a discussion of community partnerships.

https://go.edc.org/q4ys

Building State P-3 Systems: Learning from Leading States

The Center for Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) recently released a report I wrote comparing P-3 System-Building in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. The three case studies address a central question: How can states support P-3 system building at both state and local levels?

See the Executive Summary at the beginning of the report for nine themes and patterns and nine recommendations for state education agencies. There are also examples of local P-3 efforts, both urban and rural, throughout the report.

On Monday we are doing a webinar on the report for people interested in the state role in P-3 efforts. Panelists from all three states are participating.

My thanks to all the interviewees and panelists for their thoughtful insights on the work they are leading. And to my CEELO colleagues for all the helpful feedback throughout the project.