Screening shows 51 percent of state’s kindergarteners not prepared

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How Casey County is closing the gaps on early childhood education

By Abigail Whitehouse

The glass can either be half empty or half full, depending on how it’s perceived – and the same can be said for Kentucky kindergartners, half of which were prepared to start kindergarten in fall of 2014, and half of which were not.
Based on the results found in a statewide readiness screening, 51 percent of Kentucky students were not prepared to start Kindergarten last fall.
Barry Lee, Director of Special Education and Preschool Services, said there was a slight improvement in readiness last year for Casey County kindergarteners, but there is still work left to be done.

Closing the gap in Casey
In an effort to close the gap, the Casey County School District is striving to get the word out to parents about what is expected of students preparing to enter kindergarten.
One such effort is the Born Learning Academy, a public campaign aimed at helping parents, childcare givers, and communities learn about the opportunities available for young children.
“Overall in 2013, 61.3 percent were considered not ready for kindergarten in our community and 36.9 percent were considered ready,” Lee said.
A little improvement was seen in 2014, with the percentage of students who were not ready decreasing to 60.3 and the number of students prepared increasing to 39.7 percent.
“Statewide, you’re looking at 50-50, but looking at our community we do have some concerns and things that need to be addressed,” Lee said.
Efforts to increase kindergarten readiness across Casey County are numerous but, Lee added,  a lot of it comes down to getting the word out about what is expected of incoming kindergarteners and how parents can make sure their child is ready.
“During the Apple Festival we had a booth where parents who made a pledge to read to their children for 20 minutes a day received a free book,” Lee said. “You would be surprised how many individuals said to me, ‘I didn’t know students needed to know these (things) prior to school starting.’ There’s just a misconception that knowledge doesn’t begin before school starts.”
Parents can turn basic, everyday tasks into learning opportunities for their children.
“Every moment is a teaching moment,” Lee said. “If you’re doing laundry – instead of just throwing it in the washing machine, parents can teach kids how to separate it into colors. We get so busy in our every day life that we forget.”
Children entering kindergarten are expected to have a certain breadth of knowledge when they enter elementary school doors for the first time. For example, they should be able to count from 1 to 30, state their ABC’s without singing, identify body parts, know and print their first and last name, sort objects, differentiate size, and match quantities.
“This is a starting point for teachers to say, ‘I’m going to meet the child here and move forward,’” Lee said.
Lee added that a lot of factors come into play with early childhood education, like disabilities.
“But a lot of these students can do so much more and once they’re in kindergarten,  these students are picking up and by first grade they are up to the normal level,” he said. “A lot just comes from being in that organized setting with the expectation of learning.”

Early childhood
workshops for parents
The Casey County Early Childhood Council has added several programs to help educate parents on what their children are expected to know and how they can help make sure they’re ready.
The United Way Born Learning Academy is a series of six free workshops available to Casey County parents and/or guardians at  Jones Park Elementary and Walnut Hill Elementary.
“One of the things we wanted to do was get the community involved,” said Walnut Hill’s Family Resource Center Coordinator Shelly Wesley. “It’s an early childhood education for parents who have children aging from pre-natal to five, but not in kindergarten yet.”
Each workshop provides dinner for families before the learning sessions begin.
The six sessions cover topics such as healthcare, nutrition, and sleep, as well as how children learn, brain development, ages, and stages. Parents will also learn ways to make reading fun and how to connect with children through songs and games.
“Our fourth workshop is coming up next week,” Wesley said, “but you can jump right in.”
With two sessions left to go and a graduation ceremony planned, there is still time for Casey County parents and caregivers to join the workshops. The next Born Learning Academy workshop is Tuesday, Feb. 10 at WHE and Thursday, Feb. 12 at JPE.
For more information call Jennifer Godbey for JPE at (606) 787-7985 or Shelly Wesley for WHE at (606)787-0045.