How do children get to kindergarten? They might take a bus or walk with a parent.
But for policymakers the more pressing question is: How do children get from birth to kindergarten?
Have they been read to? Have they been hungry? Have they been homeless or learned to live with toothaches? Have their parents struggled with depression or addiction?
The answers are crucial and can affect whether or not a child is kindergarten-ready. The Annenberg Institute for School Reform tackles this challenge in the latest issue of VUE, its Voices in Urban Education magazine.
Part of Brown University, Annenberg is “a national policy-research and reform support organization that promotes quality education for all children, especially in urban communities.”
The guest editor for this issue is Michael Grady, the Annenberg Institute’s deputy director and an assistant professor of practice in the Urban Education Policy master’s program at Brown University.
Grady sets the stage in the lead article writing:
“With widespread support for the expansion of early education programs, there is an increased need for collaboration across systems to support the critical transition from pre-K to elementary school in order to ensure positive educational outcomes for all.”
Grady adds, “Throughout the issue, several common themes emerge about the practices, policies, programs, and supports that are essential to extending the benefits of a high-quality preschool experience.” Specifically the authors point to:
– the need to align “the early learning and K–12 systems” to create “smooth transitions for children”
– the need for “greater collaboration across systems – education, health, housing, and other family-serving agencies that have a role in keeping children on a path to academic success,” and
– every article “notes the importance of deep engagement with communities and parents as vital allies in the healthy transition of their children to kindergarten and beyond”
Grady told us that he’d also like to see “more research on the key factors that lead to sustained learning and developmental gains into the elementary years,” and “more investment in the critical capacities for systems alignment,” including collaboration among educators, data sharing, unified funding streams, and collaborative research.
The magazine’s articles cover both research and practices in several cities. As Grady explains:
Rebecca Gomez of NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research) at Rutgers University “opens the volume by describing the current state of social science knowledge about what it takes to sustain the benefits of high-quality early childhood education programs. Among other observations, she advocates for stronger systems to sustain these benefits throughout early learning transitions and beyond.”
Amy Fain and Diane Eason Contreras of the Community Action Project of Tulsa County (CAP Tulsa) “recount that city’s experience on the leading edge of the national movement for universal prekindergarten. CAP Tulsa’s transition and curriculum staff partner with schools to sustain the early benefits of pre-K as students matriculate through the early elementary grades, working on four key elements of the transition process: family-school, school-school, child-school, and community-school.”
Randi Levine, director of the Early Childhood Education Project for the Advocates for Children of New York, “reports on the Turning 5 work group that was set up to support families of students with disabilities who face a unique set of challenges in transitioning to kindergarten.
Maureen Kay Sigler, former director of the Olneyville Education initiative in Providence, “describes a comprehensive, community-based approach to supporting young children’s passage from early childhood education to kindergarten. A broad array of supports, using the Early Head Start and Healthy Families America models, were designed to counter the debilitating effects of toxic stress.”
Joanna Geller, of the Annenberg Institute, and Maria Christina Betancur (a parent collaborator in Central Falls, Rhode Island) “report on the We Are A Village initiative focused on family engagement in early childhood and funded through the federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program. One of the goals of that project is to effect smooth transitions by fostering deep parent engagement to help families feel welcome, valued, and respected.”
The issue also includes “a series of ‘perspective’ pieces that complement some of the themes raised by the issue’s authors.”
The magazine gathers this “collective wisdom,” Grady writes, and Annenberg will use it to ensure that there is a secure, engaging bridge for children and families who are traveling from birth to kindergarten.