Back when we went to Pre-Kindergarten, we remember playing games, being taught to use scissors properly, staying in the lines while coloring pictures and even taking naps.
Today, PreK students are rarely given the opportunity to engage in those basic activities due to the rigorous expectations that have been placed on Florida public school students. The goals for Florida public school students to meet and exceed are at an all-time high and without a solid educational foundation, our students will always be struggling to catch up.
The FutureMakers Coalition focuses on providing support to ensure that all Southwest Floridians have success from “Cradle to Career”. All parents need to know that a quality PreK experience is a must to build a solid foundation for academic success. Public school students will take the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) starting in the third grade and if students are not prepared and on grade level, that student is in jeopardy of not achieving a passing score on the FSA and potentially having to repeat the 3rd grade. This is the first taste that students get of the required “high stakes testing” in our schools. The testing continues each year in some form, such as additional FSA tests, End of Course Exams, PSAT, etc. A proper academic foundation is critical.
In Glades County, there are very few PreK opportunities for families. Because of the lack of programs, staff developed a plan to begin their own in-school PreK program similar to many other school districts around Florida. The program is in its third year and student enrollment in the PreK program is anticipated to more than triple beginning in the 2019-2020 school year since it opened.
The primary focus of staff is to make sure that ALL students in the PreK program are “Kindergarten Ready”, which is a term used in the education world that indicates that students should be able to master all standards for the Kindergarten grade level. One of the keys to ensuring that PreK students are “Kindergarten Ready” is for the Kindergarten teachers and PreK teachers to work together and develop learning goals, strategies and lessons that will promote student mastery of the needed academic skills for student success.
By housing a PreK program, it is an easy task to have PreK and Kindergarten teachers work together. Glades County School District in turn saw the second highest Kindergarten Readiness scores, compared to other districts in the state for 2018, with 66 percent of students being “Kindergarten Ready.”
St. John’s County was the highest at 71 percent while the state average was 53 percent. It gets difficult when PreK students attend a center that has no alignment with Florida’s K-12 system and this leads those students to not receive the basic instruction they will need to start and be successful in Kindergarten.
In Lee County, the school district is working to improve the quality of Early Childhood Education and the transition from PreK to Kindergarten by establishing a PreK to Grade 3 Work Group. This group is focused on the articulation between providers and elementary schools including visits and mentoring teachers.
Through the District Preferred PreK Provider Initiative, providers agree to meet PreK standards and participate in coursework. The district is also committed to providing consistent kindergarten screeners; developing a Kindergarten brochure to help families prepare for PreK and providing professional development to providers.
Retaining a top-notch workforce depends on our ability to provide high-quality early childhood education options and improved Kindergarten readiness. This is a business issue as well as an opportunity to improve the system that is creating our workforce pipeline.
Parents can identify quality Early Childhood Education by visiting the following informational sites:
https://naeyc.org/our-work/families/10-naeyc-program-standards and https://elcofswfl.org
As FutureMakers, we can’t stress enough the importance of our youngest students attending a quality PreK program that will provide the necessary academic preparation and propel them to success in the challenge that lies ahead of mastering the rigorous Florida expectations.
Scott Bass is Superintendent of Schools for the Glades County School District and a FutureMaker. Dr. Denise Carlin is Executive Director, Strategic Planning and Community Engagement – Lee County School District and a FutureMaker.
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