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

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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.”

Campaign for Grade Level Reading Webinar: First 10 School and Community Partnerships

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The Campaign for Grade Level Reading is holding a webinar on First 10 School and Community Partnerships on October 8 from 3:00–4:30 ET.. Please join me, Cris Lopez Anderson (Buffett Early Childhood Institute), and Brooke Chilton-Timmons (Multnomah County Department of Human Services) to learn about the exciting work happening in these communities. 

You can find the registration link below, and here is an invitation from Cris that went out in the Campaign’s newsletter:

I’m excited to invite you to join me for a webinar highlighting the First 10 Schools and Communities model that is promoting collaborations between school districts and the early learning and family support fields to promote early school success. Please join us on Oct. 8, from 3–4:30 p.m. ET to learn about this model and how it is being implemented in two Grade Level Reading (GLR) communities — Omaha, Nebraska, and Multnomah County, Oregon.

First 10 schools and communities are forging partnerships with families and organizations to reach children long before they arrive at kindergarten. In Greater Omaha, the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska is providing technical assistance to 11 school districts as they promote schools as community hubs to support families and children from birth through third grade. We will also learn how county leaders in Multnomah County, Oregon, are promoting community schools and early engagement with young children and families.

REGISTER

I hope you will join me and my co-presenters as we discuss this promising model and explore the potential connections with GLR coalitions.

Initiative aimed at helping children get a better start in life offers real promise

A strong editorial statement on P-3 by the Lancaster County newspaper, the Lancaster LNP:

“It’s devastating to think that as early as infancy, a child might be deemed to be “at-risk” — that is, at risk of failing in school, of being trapped in poverty, of even facing a diminished life expectancy.

‘The achievement gap exists in kindergarten,’ Andrea Heberlein, a United Way of Lancaster County staffer and P-3 advocate who oversees an education task force for the Coalition to Combat Poverty, told Hawkes.

And that achievement gap opens up very early in a child’s life.

As a National Association of Elementary School Principals publication noted in 2013, ‘Data from a nationally representative sample of children, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study — Birth Cohort 2001, reveal that gaps in what children know and are able to do appear as early as 9 months of age. Not surprisingly, these gaps only grow over time.’

And sadly, those gaps — if not addressed — can doom a child’s lifelong opportunities before he learns to tie his shoes.

It is a monumental challenge, but it is critical to free children from the life sentence that the ‘at-risk’ designation can be. So we laud those who are working to launch prenatal-to-third-grade, or P-3, programs in Lancaster County.

We’ve repeatedly advocated for quality prekindergarten education, which also is championed by everyone from district attorneys to academics to military leaders because it benefits all of us when children are prepared for school and lifelong learning. It benefits employers (who need skilled workers), the armed forces (which need educated recruits) and taxpayers (prekindergarten education is far cheaper than building prisons).

Now, we are excited by the prospects for P-3 education in Lancaster County. We hope state lawmakers and county officials are excited, too, by this promising new front in the quest to stem intergenerational poverty.”

You can find the article here.

“The Preschool Fade-Out Effect Is Not Inevitable”

In Education Week by Stanford professor Deborah Stipek:

“Is fade-out inevitable? No. Studies have shown definitively that investment in preschool can yield sustained effects and significant social and economic returns. But fade-out is common and remains a persistent reminder that simply providing preschool to low-income children is not sufficient to achieve long-term benefits.

If we want to sustain the effects of preschool, we need to look at what happens after children enter school. Clearly, the quality of schooling they receive in the early elementary grades matters. Poor instruction can undo the effects of high-quality preschool experiences. But instruction has to be more than good to sustain preschool effects; it has to build strategically on the gains made in preschool.”

“The Preschool Fade-Out Effect Is Not Inevitable”

And see these two summaries by the New America Foundation:

What “Transforming the Workforce” Says About the Importance of Continuity

New Report from SRCD on What PreK-3rd Means for Instruction

Children in New York City are healthier since the start of Pre-K for All

From Chalkbeat:

“The launch of Pre-K for All led to improved health outcomes for low-income children. That’s according to researchers at New York University who analyzed Medicaid data for New York City children who were eligible to enroll in free pre-K versus those who just missed the cutoff because of their age.

In a report released this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, using data from 2013 through 2016, researchers found that the children eligible for pre-K were more likely than their peers to be diagnosed with asthma or vision problems after the rollout of Pre-K for All. They were also more likely to have received immunizations or be screened for infectious diseases, both of which are requirements for enrolling in the city’s program.

Proper medical screening could have implications beyond physical well-being, the researchers suggest. Diagnosing and treating chronic health problems earlier could help students ‘cope with challenges, feel less frustrated or overwhelmed in the classroom, and communicate with peers and educators more effectively,’ the study found.”

You can find the Chalkbeat story here.

The Good News About Educational Inequality

The authors of the report mentioned in the previous post below have a piece in this week’s NYT Sunday Review. See the whole article, but here is the conclusion:

“As encouraging as this new evidence is, we have a long way to go. Poor children still enter kindergarten nearly a year behind their richer peers. Even if school readiness gaps continue to narrow at the rate they did between 1998 and 2010, it would take another 60 to 110 years for them to be completely eliminated.

Changes in parenting are not going to be sufficient to sustain or speed this progress, although more paid leave would help. Economic inequality still constrains poor children’s horizons. Low-income and middle-class parents still struggle to find affordable, high-quality preschools. The elementary, middle and high schools that rich and poor students attend differ markedly in resources and quality. And it isn’t clear that the recent reductions in school readiness gaps will automatically translate into greater equality in high school, college and beyond.

If we don’t do something about these larger problems, the progress we have made toward equality in early childhood may prove only a brief respite from ever-widening educational inequality. ‘Goodnight Moon,’ for all its charm and power, is no substitute for comprehensive social policy.”

New York Timeshttps://go.edc.org/l5tu

Are Poor Students More Prepared for Kindergarten?

“For decades, as wealthy parents invested more and more time and money on enrichment for their young children, students in poverty fell further and further behind.

New research, however, suggests that the trend is changing: The children starting their first days of kindergarten may arrive better prepared than prior generations—and students in poverty will arrive at less of a disadvantage compared with their wealthier peers.

Income and racial gaps in school readiness closed significantly between 1998 and 2010, according to studies in a special issue of AERA Open, a journal of the American Educational Research Association. …

The closing academic gaps … are ‘not because schools are getting more equal, but because something in early childhood is becoming more equal,’ Reardon said. ‘It would be great if you could have both, but we do have one.'”

Education Weekhttps://go.edc.org/u1i6

Five Practical Lessons about Birth–3rd Partnerships: Feedback Requested

A chief benefit of blogs is the interactive dialogue they can support. With the Birth–3rd Learning Hub, I have an opportunity to test ideas with people who are deeply involved in doing Birth–3rd work. A few weeks ago I posted a number of “lessons” based on the work thus far, giving examples of each to illustrate the central take-away. Here is a summary of these five take-aways:

  1. Community- and Relationship-Building are Necessary but not Sufficient
  2. Attending to the Imbalance of Power Requires Care
  3. Partnerships Need a “Backbone”
  4. Birth—3rd Improvement Requires District Early Childhood Capacity
  5. An Important Balance: Strategy with an Eye towards Capacity-Building

I’m very interested in learning about any experiences you have had that either support or challenge any of the points I make in this post. I invite you to share them via the comment section below. I’ll draw on your feedback in future posts. If you prefer to communicate with me directly, just put “private” in your comment, and I won’t make it public. Or email jacobsondl at gmail.com. Thanks for your help.

Ambitious Vision: Principal Leadership in PreK–3rd Learning Communities

The National Association of Elementary School Principals has published an ambitious vision of the principal’s role in PreK–3rd reform. This report, Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practice, outlines six competencies that together form a comprehensive approach to leading early learning partnerships. This approach will require district support in addition to principal leadership. The full report fleshes out the competencies in helpful detail and includes descriptions of exemplary practice, questions for reflections, self-assessments, and links to tools and other resources. More to follow in a future post.

The PDF version of the report is free until November 15.