This week, the Governor’s Transforming Education in Kentucky (TEK) Task Force met for the first time. My thanks to Lu Young, superintendent of the Jessamine County school district, and the staff at East Jessamine High School for hosting the first event.
It was a great event, with a panel discussion on KERA and a very exciting presentation from former Kentuckian Ginny Edwards, who is the editor/publisher of Education Week. Governor Beshear gave us our charge, and one of the key issues that we will review is the early childhood-to-school transition. This issue really ignites a passion that I have for addressing the needs of children.
As a superintendent in North Carolina, I saw firsthand the impact of early childhood programs on student readiness for school. I also know that it is essential to address student vocabulary development in the early years of childhood, or the students will come to school already several years behind. I asked our early childhood office to let me know some of the things we are doing and some of the things we need to be doing. Thanks to the team for the following information.
Things we are doing in Kentucky:
· development of regional teams of health, education, elected officials, civic and community leaders to address issues and barriers that prevent access to high-quality programs and schools for children birth-8 and their families through the Kentucky Great by 8 economic growth initiative
· collaborative partnerships across state agencies through the KIDS NOW initiative that help promote quality and a focus on whole-child development.
· recognition of high-quality district preschool programs through the Preschool Classrooms of Excellence and Early Childhood Centers of Quality/Excellence initiatives
· recent release of the Field Guide to the Kentucky Early Childhood Standards to give all professionals working with young children ideas of how to incorporate the early learning standards in their program planning
What we would like to see:
· promotion of a definition of school readiness that focuses on the whole child – ready child, ready schools, ready families and communities
· development of a common, reliable, appropriate assessment that will be implemented by the kindergarten teacher after the first 30 days of a child’s attendance, specifically for instructional purposes for student mastery of the standards
· stronger partnerships between private child care, Head Start and state-funded preschool to promote collaboration and quality and to provide opportunities for more children to attend preschool
My experience is that if schools are not ready for the children, the impact of early childhood programs will be lost by 3rd grade. The investment in early childhood is immense and has the potential of impacting our economy and social program costs over the long run. However, schools also must do their part in connecting with the preschool and early childhood community. It is terrific to find this connection already happening in a number of school districts in Kentucky. The Governor’s TEK Task Force’s focus on this issue also will highlight the need and possible solutions.