Learning starts before children enter kindergarten

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….. If [we] are really concerned about a high quality education K through college and career readiness, then you must ask yourself the question, ‘What is happening in the world of children prior to their arrival?’  Webster County Schools has a mantra that we are committed to great opportunities for all kids. So ‘all kids’ means all kids.”

— Superintendent Rachel Yarbrough from Webster County School District

Sarah Reed
Sarah Reed

By Sarah Reed
sarah.reed@jefferson.kyschools.us

By the time many children are born in Kentucky, they are unwittingly part of the achievement gap. How can this be? The understanding is that many children are not receiving the experiences needed to acquire the kind of knowledge necessary for succeeding in kindergarten.

In this framework, public school education no longer starts at kindergarten, but extends from birth to age 3, then from age 3 to kindergarten, and then from kindergarten to 12th grade. Each of these ranges stand strong like the towers that hold up the steel cables, which in turn hold up the roadway of a bridge going across a river.

Accomplishing career and college readiness does not only happen in the K-12 context,
but will take a combined effort in a birth to grade 12 setting. For districts to make, sustain and advance the needed systemic changes, it will require the sharing of resources and strategies that others have used. One resource that comes highly recommended in filling this need is the new Superintendent School Readiness Toolbox, which is available on the Kentucky Department of Education’s website.

The Superintendent School Readiness Toolbox is a valuable resource to support the partnerships between public schools and agencies, organizations, parents and community members. It incorporates transparency by sharing what works and presents vignettes of district-stakeholder partnerships, thus helping others see how systemic action leads to systemic change.

One tab that I would encourage district leaders to view is named “Who’s Doing it Well?” On this page, viewers will see and hear Superintendent Yarbrough discuss Webster County’s focus on Early Childhood with her team. They also can gain from other perspectives, such as Erlanger Elsmere Independent, Hardin County, Newport Independent and Whitney County, confirming that through different, innovative strategies, we can all work to ensure that college and career readiness has not left early childhood education out of the equation.

And in the same way, Kentucky is working to ensure that educational success is more than kindergarten through 12th grade. Extending the reach down to age 0 and up to 12th grade is one of the most important investments our state can make. This is critical to reducing the achievement gap.

If all children could have sound, quality educational experiences before entering kindergarten, imagine what a new world it would be for our system and the future of our youth, so that everyone has access to being college and career ready?

 

Sarah Reed, a teacher at Field Elementary School (Jefferson County), is the 2015 Kentucky Teacher of the Year. She will be sharing her educational experiences in and outside of the classroom with Kentucky Teacher readers during her year-long reign.

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