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.”

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

 

“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

New Bedford’s Emerging Work on Transitions and Some Good Resources

The New Bedford Birth–3rd Leadership Alignment Team has chosen to focus its work on three strategies: 1) improving transitions, 2) aligned and collaborative professional development for community-based and district early childhood teachers focused on social-emotional  and literacy skills, and 3) effective use of Teaching Strategies Gold data. I’m supporting the New Bedford team along with Titus DosRemedios of Strategies for Children. The Leadership Alignment Team has been investigating the current state of transitions in New Bedford and is developing a survey that will capture additional information on transitions, curriculum, assessment, students served, and related practices.

New Bedford’s Birth–3rd team has also formed a Transitions Working Group that will plan and implement New Bedford’s transitions strategy in consultation with the broader team. As this group begins its work, we have come across a few helpful resources. Karen Surprenant of Pace Head Start shared this slide deck on Effective Transitions to Enhance School Readiness from Head Start’s National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning. In addition to the two sample transition forms shared by Somerville and Pittsfield, we are reviewing the Articulation Checklist and Transition Discussion Template found in the Ounce of Prevention Fund’s very useful Birth-to-College Collaborative Toolbox. Also see this page of transition resources from the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Of course these resources only scratch the surface of the many useful guidance documents on transitions, so please share ones you have found helpful by commenting on this post or emailing me at jacobsondl [at] gmail.com.