What are the characteristics of successful kindergarten students in henry county schools? Essay

CHAPTER I

Background
Over the last several years, there has been an increased focus on school readiness and supporting children during the preschool years to learn the skills they need to be successful in elementary school and beyond (Bowman, Donovan, Bums, & the Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy of the National Research Council, 2000).  The     capacity to develop positive social relationships, to concentrate and persist on challenging tasks, to effectively communicate emotions, and to problem solve are just a few of the competencies young children need to be successful as they transition to school.  With schools being held ultimately accountable for a student’s education, many educators are examining the link children who come ready to learn and their home environment.  Early life experiences can powerfully impact attitudes toward learning and later achievements in education (Sankar-DeLeeuw, 2007).  The early years have been considered formative, and critical, to subsequent cognitive, social, and emotional development. (Robinson, 1993).  Parents provide their children with opportunities for social, emotional, and intellectual development.  Mothers and fathers do this in many ways, both directly, as they instruct their children and model behaviors, and indirectly, by means of the resources and experiences they provide (Parke & Buriel, 1998).

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Several characteristics exist in formal education that successfully measure what a kindergarten students has learned.  States’ varied curriculum requirements list what primary elementary students should know.  However, the knowledge and readiness these children come with can greatly affect not only what they learn, but also how quickly they learn, comprehend and assimilate various tasks and skills.  The period of early childhood sets the state for how well children view themselves, each other, and their world (Honig, 2002).  Early experiences also provide a template for learning and are the true litmus test for how well children will do in school and manage the daily events in their environment (Meisels, 2001; Rosenkoetter & Barton, 2002).

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

The primary purpose of this study is to add to the knowledge base of both parents and educators of the cognitive development of young children.  Specifically, this study aims to help assist and identify methods, templates and/or strategies parents and schools may use to ensure school and learning readiness for kindergarten students entering formal education.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

         Because an increasing number of children are placed in a formal learning environment at earlier ages, parents are often concerned about the quality of academic learning taking place.  In the same maker, educators are often vexed wit the investments parents have made in their children. At the child level, social-emotional interventions should target children’s ability to communicate their emotions in appropriate ways, regulate their emotions, solve common problems, build positive relationships with the peers and adults in their environments, and engage in and persist in challenging tasks. These types of behaviors are essential for preparing children for social and academic success as they transition from early childhood settings to formal schooling (Hemmeter, Ostrosky, ; Fox, 2006).

     With the growing concern of “failing schools” as outlined in the No Child Left Behind 2001 legislation, it is imperative that children come to school ready to learn.  In order for schools to perform successfully and educate students without vast remediation, parents and caregivers of pre-school children must make a strong and positive impact of future cognitive development.   A study conducted by Dickinson and Tabors (1991) using the SHELL-K (the School–Home Early Language and Literacy Battery—kindergarten), found that both the home and the school make important contributions in the emergence of early language and literacy skills. The results suggest that early literacy development  is supported by experiences of many types that occur in a variety of settings. The oral language experiences that occur in the home prior to beginning school and the activities in early school experiences are critical (Faires, Nichols, ; Rickelman, 2000).

     Understanding the impact school readiness has on cognitive development, is a topic worthy of research.

Research Design

Research Question and Hypotheses

Assumptions and Limitations

Definitions of Terms

Expected Findings

CHAPTER 2.  LITERATURE REVIEW

INTRODUCTION

    The assumption that parents are the first and most important influence on their children’s early development is increasingly accepted (Cooke, 1991).  Recently, parents have been recognized for the crucial role they play in establishing the foundation of their children’s education, facilitating their development and achievement, and remedying educational and developmental problems (Becher, 1986).  When young children enter school without the abilities to work cooperatively with their peers, follow rules, listen to their teachers, and work independently, they are placed at greater risk for a wide range of negative outcomes including peer rejection and school failure (Parker ; Asher, 1987; Walker, Colvin, ; Ramsey, 1995).

    NCLB legislation, signed by President Bush in 2001, no longer allows schools and educators to simply play catch up with those students who come to kindergarten without being academically ready.  As a result of NCLB, schools are desperately attempting to begin kindergarten pupils with state mandated curricula without needed remediation.   It’s a fact. Children whose parents are involved in their education do better in school. Communicate often with your child’s teacher about how your child is doing. Find out how you can support what your child is learning in school at home. And whenever you can, participate in school activities like PTA’s, bake sales, and other school projects. By investing your time in your child’s education, you contribute to their success later in life—a gift that will last a lifetime.

            The following section will provide an explanation of the benefits a nurturing home environment can have on a pre-schooler’s formal education. This section is followed by a discussion of theories and practices relevant to the study.  A discussion and analysis of previous studies on early learning home environments will also be presented.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

            High rates of grade failure and low international ranking of educational achievement reflect high levels of student and parent disengagement in education and the urgent need for change (Steinberg, 1996; Takahira, Gonzalez, Frase ; Salganik, 1998). Concerns about the crisis in public education have led to the establishment of the National Education Goals (U.S. Department of Education, 1992) and federal legislation (IDEA, 1997). The goals represent a strategic plan to enhance learning opportunities for all students by targeting what experts believe to be the most fundamental components of effective intervention. Two major foci of this strategic national plan are school readiness and parent involvement. Goal 1 is “school readiness.” This goal and its accompanying objectives highlight the need for quality early childhood educational programs and emphasize the importance of establishing and maintaining substantial parent involvement to promote student learning (Fantuzzo ; Greenfield, 1999).

When first introduced in 1991, the National Education goals stated that, “all children in America will start school ready to learn” (National Education Goals Panel, l997). Mentors and policymakers are still committed to achieving this goal, but it has been revised over time in recognition of the fact that all children begin learning at birth. In many communities today, ready to learn has been substituted with ready to succeed in school, a phrase that better imitate the intention of the original goal. There has also been a growing appreciation of the fact that it is not enough for children to simply be ready. Schools and communities must also be ready for children if they are to become successful apprentices. At present, many states are turning their concentration to the assessment of readiness for school as a portion of their hard work to improve educational outcomes for children.

Readiness is a multifaceted concept and one that has been much disputed. While a tremendous amount of attention has been paid to it in recent years, there is still a diminutive consensus about how readiness is to be defined, how it should be appraised, or what is the use of the assessment data gathered and its significance to the students and their families, the school and the teacher and the community in general. Although readiness in school or for schooling is studied nationally to some extent, there is little known evidence regarding what is actually taking place in individual states regarding a student’s readiness for kindergarten, according to Saluja, Scott-Little and Clifford (2000) forty nine states did not have an official definition of readiness. Like in Hawaii, the federal kindergarten study year began only two years prior but indications that it is essential, and with pre-kindergarten being considered as key to the success of a child in school especially for children whose families has increased risks like poverty and low parental education levels.  In 2001, the Governor of Tennessee provided for the enactment of a bill that would have provided for pre-kindergarten schooling to all their children, although unfortunately, the bill was not funded (TACIR, 2002). That legislation, the Education Reform Act of 2001 provided for the following:

·         A state-wide reading program aimed at schools with children scoring poorly on the state’s reading tests,

·         Enhanced support structure for students who were at risk of failing the state’s high school graduation exams, the Gateway Tests.

·         Improvements in professional development for teachers at all their education systems

·         Development and improvement of the pilot programs in early childhood education (pre-kindergarten) state-wide.

The underlying principle for the Governor’s program is as much an financial one as an educational one in the sense that early failure is expensive to cure and ultimately drains the state’s economy, which is why both local governments and the business community supported the legislation (TACIR 2002).

One may realize that the fulfillment of a child’s potential is largely dependent on the circumstances within which they learn, develop and establish the said potentials as well as on the interrelationship between those circumstances. From the beginning of a child’s life, starting with the family and relationships and attachments formed with family members can be considered a profound mechanism for social, emotional and intellectual development. From the crucial attachment given by the child to its caregiver (not necessarily the parent) to the later years of development in adolescence and adulthood, families play a vital role as the initial influence and first social system where are child’s skills interact with its environment that results in individual growth. And the moment that a child enters formal schooling, the school becomes the second influential context of their development (Teachers College, 2005).

            A child’s immediate surrounding is often cited as one foundation of influence in the development of intellectual skills. Strong relationships have been reported between various markers for home environment including socioeconomic status, maternal intelligence, characteristics of the home, and parenting practices, and performance on intelligence and other cognitive tests in childhood (Molfese, 2003).  It has also been shown that intelligence and cognitive development are differentially influenced by environmental variables. R. Bradley (1993), Gottfried and Gottfried (1984), and Scarr (1985) described the differential effects of environmental variables according to how directly they influence the child.

Most children who enter into kindergarten these days are more experienced outside the home than children of the past. As an outcome, many teachers, administrators, and even parents consider that a more advanced curriculum for these children is necessary in order to facilitate learning (Egertson, 2000). Although others express worry that five-year-olds may ascertain it difficult to be successful if the kindergarten curriculum is too advanced, as a consequence some parents opt to enter their children a year later into kindergarten classes in an effort to provide the child an advantage by being older in class.

Kindergarten classrooms of today hardly bear a resemblance to those of your childhood memories. Egertson (2000) states that today’s kindergarten classrooms have high expectations for children’s academic achievement, socials skills, and independence and equally parents should also provide for high expectations for their children’s kindergarten program and a good kindergarten program should provide for as follows:

ü  Support and hearten all children, regardless of their previous preschool experience, ethnicity, language and ability or disability.

ü  Use teaching protocols that are challenging but suitable for kindergarten-aged children.

ü  Promote children’s enthusiasm about learning.

ü  Provide for a balanced prospectus with activities that encompass science, social studies, language arts, arithmetic, art and creativity, and physical education.

ü  Encourage parents to partake in their child’s education.

As a parent, having a child enter kindergarten can be a time of both exhilaration and anxiety (NEA, n.d.). Planning for this can help make the time a little less stressful not only for the parent but for the child as well. The National Education Association states factors to be considered in entering a child into kindergarten are as follows:

ü  Parents should decide first and foremost which kindergarten program their child will attend.

ü  They should also request an enrollment packet from the school— taking note of important dates and deadlines.

ü  Schedule a visit with the child’s pediatrician to ascertain that his or her immunizations and health screenings are up-to-date.

ü  If the child underwent other preschool programs, provide the child’s current preschool program permission to share documents and information with the new school.

ü  Parents should attend an open house or schedule a tour of the new school to discover their facilities before school starts.

ü  Parents should also meet with their child’s new teacher and share with her ideas and any concern regarding the child’s interests, strengths and any other areas of concern.

ü  Parents should find out how they can become involved in their child’s classroom, school committees, and the PTA.

Parents should learn to prepare their child for kindergarten since this time will permit many changes in the life of their child.  Adjusting to a new environment, new teachers, new friends, and new schedules and routines can become very stressful for the child and better preparation that can facilitate successful entry to kindergarten will help the child attain positive values and attitudes when it comes to schooling and learning (NEA, n.d.)  Parents can help their children achieve kindergarten readiness by doing the following:

ü  Read literature about starting kindergarten.

ü  Talk excitedly with your child about starting kindergarten.

ü  Reassure any fear or anxiety your child might be feeling.

ü  Let your child visit and get the feel for the new school.

ü  Share with your child the activities they will be doing in kindergarten and what they will eventually learn

ü  Have a discussion about and practice new routines.

ü  Spend extra time on the first day of school without prolonging your good-bye.

(National Education Association)

Many preschools and child care centers endeavor to educate contents recognized by kindergarten teachers as a prerequisite to kindergarten success, nowadays it is not unusual to observe child care and preschool situations wherein children spend longer periods sitting at tables trying to complete pencil and paper tasks which would be inappropriate even for substantially older children (Egertson, 2000). These das many parents look for programs that show an inclination towards promoting kindergarten readiness.

The Readiness Issue

What exactly is readiness, or more particularly, how should readiness to succeed in school be defined?  Defining readiness is not a simple issue nor is it an academic issue. Lewit and Baker (1995) ask if readiness is to be defined as readiness not only of children but also of the school to accommodate them and for the community to give ample support for these children and their schools.

In large measure how readiness is defined establishes the location of responsibility for the development of readiness lies: the child, the school or the support facility provided for both.  Giving readiness therefore procures practical consequences. It influences decisions regarding assessment, direction and target of community and government investments and how to measure progress. Recently, the National Educational Goals Panel (2000) has recommended three components of readiness:

1) Readiness in the child;

2) Readiness of the school for these type of children;

3) Family and community supports that contribute to children’s readiness.

Readiness in the child

            The experiences of a child before entering kindergarten might influence their preparedness for formal education (Haught, 2005). Readiness refers to the characteristics that children bring to the school setting that enhance the likelihood of learning covered into a variety of subtopics as follows:

Physical Development

Physical activity is one frequent characteristic of Kindergarten children, although children differ a great deal in the development of physical skills and abilities. Some children are slow and watchful about trying new stuff; others seem to recognize and accept any challenge that is presented.

Most kindergarten children are jam-packed with energy, ready to run, swing, climb and jump, and are enthusiastic to try their strength by moving big blocks or boxes. They are beginning to develop a sense of rhythm, and take pleasure in such activities as marching, jumping or clapping to music. These activities require only a short period and allow for more participation than standing. Required stillness is more arduous and nerve-racking for most kindergarten students than movement. Physical health and well-being of young children is seen by the majority as the most important and essential readiness characteristics. Children who are physically well, properly nourished, rested, and in general good health are more liable to benefit from learning experiences provided by families, schools and communities. It can be noted that as many believes that good health and physical well being of children is an important factor in promoting readiness, health screening for children should be high on the list of important things communities can do to help children be successful (Feeney, Grace & Brandt, 2001), the particularly high rating for physical health and well-being influence in success have strong implications for private and public agencies and their policies, including access to vision, hearing and dental screening; child immunization efforts; and nutrition and health education programs, to name a few.

Sensory development is not smooth. The coordination of the eyes and other senses are still developing. Physical growth has mellowed down. It is a time of strengthening gains and developing fine motor control. However, over-emphasis on fine motor activities such as writing, cutting and making very discrete visual discriminations may result in tension and frustration in the child therefore the teacher must learn to discriminate such and accommodate the needs of the child/student.

Socio-emotional Development

Children also develop socially and emotionally during their kindergarten year. At the start of the year some children may be shy and appear to require initiative. However, as they come to know the circumstances, the teachers and peers, they usually start to achieve confidence and begin to institute friendships and become an active member of the class. Other children may be too assertive prior to learning from experience more appropriate ways of relating to peers. Kindergarten is a time of testing and exploring social relationships with peers and elders. Children’s social and emotional skills emerged as central and were strongly endorsed as a very important factor for school success, particularly by parents (Feeney, Grace & Brandt, 2001). The social-emotional sphere points in two directions: the external sphere that include the children’s capacity to cooperate, form friendships and comprehend the perspectives and feelings of others; and the internal sphere that includes realization and expression of their own feelings, a positive self-regard and a developing sense of independence and effectiveness. Getting along well with others was one of the critical readiness characteristics, together with the child’s self confidence and good feelings about one’s self as critical characteristics needed  in order to gain successful entry to the school system (Feeney, Grace & Brandt, 2001).

Kindergarten children are enthusiastic about being given responsibility. They are pleased about running errands, being taught to use proper tools, participating with grown-ups in such activities as cooking, transporting things from home, and suggesting resolutions to practical problems. Although there are some senses in which kindergarten students are still self-centered they are also capable, in an appropriate group environment, to lend a helping hand to each other.

They are able to show substantial compassion toward people and animals when their own needs do not conflict with the needs of others. When helpfulness is noticed, modeled and encouraged by the teacher, helpful behaviour is to be expected as a more common outcome in the classroom. In this regard, kindergarten children are emerging a sense of independence but are also learning to work cooperatively with others

Intellectual Development

            Intellectual development in kindergarten students are derived not only from paying close attention to their teachers but it is also derived from exploring, testing and investigating the environment. Kids aged four to six year old generally has an inquisitive mind and loves to talk, often the link to vocabulary development is linked to their intellectual development. General knowledge (such as knows colors, shapes, letters, and numbers) was not a highly valued aspect of child readiness.

Administrators did not see general knowledge as that important to school success. Comparative to the other domains, intellectual development is considered the least important domain. In the study conducted by Feeney, Grace and Brandt (2001) their results shows that interview and survey groups did not select a basic knowledge characteristic as one of the most critical skills for children’s success. Cognitive development or the development of discernment and understandings, such as evolving literacy concepts, concepts of number, space and time; and cognitive procedures such as comparing, synthesizing, reflecting and evaluating new knowledge did not emerge in the interviews. Although the study conducted by Feeney, Grace and Brandt in 2001 can be construed as limited in the sense that their survey items, although pattered under the national surveys, did not represent this aspect of the domain and this lack of cognitive survey items is a limitation of our study, since cognitive development play a prominent role in children’s readiness for school success in the research literature. Greater knowledge of intelligence and its development is needed to be promoted in the early childhood community of parents, caregivers and professional educators. Awareness and familiarity of this domain are predominantly needed for methodically planning and keeping up a balanced, inclusive curriculum for young children. Attention to cognition and its development in the curriculum, particularly by kindergarten teachers, will make available the scaffolding of higher level thinking processes and skills expected and required for learning in later grades.

The child’s surroundings can also play a part in preparing them for school. Providing a number and an assortment of books for your child and indulging the time to read to them is one of the most essential things you can do for their schooling. Reading to a child instruct those vocal skills, terminology, listening skills, left-to-right direction, cause and effect, knowledge about the world around them, and pre-reading ability. Most importantly, it instills a love for reading and books which will profit them throughout their entire education. After all, every subject (even math) necessitates reading

Individual Differences

            Generalization may be a very important part of understanding children but it is also imperative that individuality and personality of these children be taken into consideration, any particular need by a particular child should also be integrated into the system (SaskEd, n.d.).  In this regard a teacher should be observant in order to evaluate the need of the child and plan accordingly any particular intervention needed.

Appreciate the exceptionality of every individual

Begin to recognize and respect individual differences  including gender, culture, race, religion, age, varying abilities, disabilities, chronic illnesses
Identify and recognize themselves as members of a particular family, culture, religion, gender, etc.
Begin to be aware of stereotypes  like a specific type of  cultures, male/female roles)

Getting ready for kindergarten

There are a few basics of what a child should know in order to be successful in kindergarten, the kindergarten student can:

ü  Take care of special needs, like going to the bathroom, washing hands, or tying their shoes

ü  Name many ordinary objects in their surroundings, including their own name and the names of family members

ü  Listen to an adult and follow directions

ü  Collaborate and play with other children, especially in small groups

ü  Show curiosity in books and reading, often holding books and turning pages on their own and even do pretend reading

ü  Sing songs and remember common rhymes

ü  Recognize markers and signs

ü  Pretend to read and to write

Readiness of Schools

This refers to characteristics and practices of schools and teachers that are most likely to produce positive outcomes for young children (Feeney, Grace ; Brandt, 2001). Overall, actions that schools and teachers can take are those that divulge caring and support for young children’s well-being; measures that institute positive home-school relationships through communication and evolution actions; and curriculum performances that accentuate active, individualized, and developmentally appropriate learning experiences for young children.

Community and Family Supports

This attribute of readiness addresses programs and policies in communities that support the well-being of children and families.  Family involvement is a feasible strategy to address transition concerns related to readiness (Boethel, 2004). The school-family association can help ensure that the potential of each child is fulfilled as well as link the accomplishment gap. As illustrated in the School Snapshot, with careful planning, schools can engage families in helping children get ready for school and transition from grade to grade. This component encompasses three key features: all children having access to high quality and developmentally appropriate preschool programs; parents, as their children’s first teachers, having access to training and support needed to help their preschoolers learn; and children residing in safe, nurturing environments and receiving the nutrition, health care, and physical activity needed to begin school with healthy minds and bodies.

Rathbun and Germino-Hausken (2001) indicate that parents are interested in taking part in their children’s education and can make momentous contributions to maintain their learning and when families, particularly the parents and schools cooperate and collaborate to help young children transition from home to pre-kindergarten to kindergarten, the results can be assessable dividends for students. In fact, the phase of transition to kindergarten provides an optimal opportunity for school personnel to get the most out of the higher levels of family-school connections common in pre-kindergarten and early child care programs (Rathbun ; Germino-Hausken, 2001). However, if families are to be caught up, school personnel particularly teachers and administrators have to reach out to these families and invite them to contribute.

Rimm-Kaufman and Pianta (1999) emphasized the important role the school administrators and its policies, and other attributes of the school plays in predicting family involvement. Furthermore, in urban schools and highly populated school of low income and ethnic minority students, these activities (family involvement) should be made a priority to make available the required support structure for these transition practices, in the sense that these efforts help to bridge the achievement gap (Early, Pianta, Taylor, ; Cox, 2001; Rathbun ; Germino-Hausken, 2001). Although parents normally yield control of their children’s education to schools when they commence formal education, schools can modify this propensity by generating structures that promote active family contribution.

Even though we generally take for granted that the work to transition a child into school begins once the child starts schooling, making use of specific transition activities even before children start kindergarten or between lower grade levels can help enhance families’ at-school participation and create expectations for continuous family-school associations for the future. This necessitate school staff to make direct contact with parents before a child enters school and uphold that contact throughout the child’s education. In several of their studies Pianta et al. illustrate this process as a reaching-out endeavor: to families and preschools, backward in time to institute links with families before the first day of school, and intensively through personal contacts and home visits. It is by direct contact and home visits that school employees have chance to introduce themselves to families/parents, and start to get acquainted and help familiarize children and families to the school’s routines and expectations (Pianta, Rimm-Kaufman, ; Cox, 1999).  Readiness is the interactive product of a child’s early development, school practices, and family and community supports that facilitate a child to connect in and benefit from school erudition experiences.

Feeney, Grace and Brandt (2001) indicate that child characteristics and experiences provided by the family is the most influential factor for children’s success in kindergarten and connect community influence as the least influential.  Administrators, teachers as well as parents considered family experience as very important and essential in achieving school success.  On the survey conducted by Feeney, Grace and Brandt (2001) preschool was seen as a highly influential factor by preschool teachers and preschool parents and consideration of the child’s native language and cultures in the curriculum was important to the survey participants, but seen as less essential to school success than many of the other given school practices. However, how teachers and schools could construct on children’s cultural backgrounds, the preschool parent and teacher proposed integrating cultural awareness into the curriculum and accepting and building on children’s home languages. If cultural and language backgrounds of children and families are to be cherished, then greater consciousness about these influences along with tactics about how to build on them should be part of community education efforts and professional development programs for educators.

Other Factors

            Formal schooling success is clearly related to a high quality environment prior to kindergarten (Auerbach, 2004), when a child go to a preschool program of high quality before entering into kindergarten, research shows a higher score percentage on examinations of pre-academic skills and language (NICHD, 2002).  It has been obvious that children who are involved in head start environments have higher literacy and marked math skills than children who did not (Plevyak ; Morris, 2002).

            It may also be noted that one of the most important article that a child will learn in pre-school is knowing how to accept and respect other children who may have a very different cultural, socio-economic background from their own (Reece, 2004), this socialization practice will enable a student to adjust well to various unfamiliar situations that may be encountered by the child like that of their first day of kindergarten in a big school.

            Teachers and parents have their own opinions regarding what successful kindergarten students require. A child’s readiness for school includes word recognition, holding and showing curiosity in a book and being able to count their own fingers (Auerbach, 2004). A study by the American Educational Research Association in 1996 states parents, teachers and caregivers agree that there are three categories that should be considered in preparing a child to enter into kindergarten:

1.       Healthy, well fed and well-rested

2.      Capability to express own thoughts, needs and wants

3.      Enthusiasm and curiosity about new activities

                                                                                              (Plevyak ; Morris, 2002).

Later in 1999, The American Educational Research did a follow-up study to see if teachers, caregivers, and parents still had the same responses. Teachers and caregivers lean to agree with the 1996 study. On the other hand, parents began to lean more towards academic skills like counting and word recognition as necessary skills to get ready for kindergarten (Plevyak ; Morris, 2002). One of the most vital characteristics a preschool student must possess is a healthy attitude toward learning (Reece, 2004).

National Educational Goals Panel (NEGP) planning group (1995), while agreeing that assessment of child outcomes is an imperative and essential step, note that it is inadequate. Assessment of children must be attached with an obligation to examining social and institutional readiness to support children’s early development and learning. To that end, the planning group strongly urged “that energy be devoted to examining the readiness and capacity of the nation’s schools to receive young children (p. 4).”

Readiness evaluation should be well deliberated in order for the technique to encompass the three readiness components, the outcomes of which are set in a system of use. Gathering and reporting data do not ultimately change or improve conditions: “Weighing a hog does not make it fatter.”  The use of readiness evaluation results have to be articulated and agreed upon. Before a viable assessment system can be planned, it is essential to be clear about the diverse purposes and uses of this assessment results and appropriate methodology to achieve each purpose. The very essence of validity is proper use of results. NEGP, the National Association of the Education of Young Children, and other national organizations have set forth important principles for readiness assessment.

The Feeney, Grace and Brandt (2001) focus group and survey findings suggest that parents, teachers and administrators could improve support for children’s development and have schools be more ready for young children if they had supplementary training in acknowledged areas including: language development, cognitive development related to early literacy, numeracy and science theories; curriculum and learning experiences pertinent to children’s home language and culture; effectual communication and parent involvement in education, and finally, creation of supportive, nurturing settings for young children.

Minimizing Risk Factors Key to Kindergarten Success

            Children entering kindergarten marks the year of rapid changes including how they think and see themselves and the environment they are involved in (TACIR, 2002).  This first year of ‘formal’ schooling can provide children with essential knowledge and skills that will be important in their future success not only in school but life in general.  Some children are better prepared upon entering kindergarten and the same children are still better ready when they exit kindergarten.  Risk factors appraised by researchers reporting on the U.S. Department of Education’s Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) included:

Ø  Mother’s education less than high school,

Ø  Family utilization of available welfare programs,

Ø  Single-parent family, and

Ø  Primary home language other than English.

Note that the fewer the risk factor the child has, the better they tend to do in math and reading at the beginning and ending of the kindergarten class, these children show an increase of ten percentile points in reading and eight percentile points in math, while children with two or more risk factors present gained only nine points in reading and seven points in math—but at least they still gained (TACIR, 2002).

Every child learns at a different pace.

Kindergarten readiness means more than ensuring that the child has the skills considered necessary to be successful in school. It also means that the parent, the child’s primary caregiver (not necessarily the parent), and new school (administrators and teachers) are working hand in hand to meet the child’s social, emotional, physical, and intellectual needs. It should also be realized that children grow and develop at different rates; some children walk or talk earlier than others, some children read sooner than others. The essential part is that children have many opportunities to experience learning activities around loving and caring adults. Playing with adults and other children, reading books, writing, and talking are all vital ways that children learn and become geared up for school. In children, one may derive that nothing is insignificant, if you notice the child is having a hard time with a particular skill it is better to check into it, discussions with the child’s pediatrician or any local authority can help the parent and the child get the right help if necessary. Parents may want to provide the necessary assistance to the child at the earliest onset. It is also essential to talk to the school regarding the skills they expect that the child possess at the start of the school year.

Play and Learning

One must realize that a child is not an adult and thereby cannot sit idly for long periods of time and expect them exert patient. Children will want to play and it is through play that much of children’s early learning is achieved. The physical, socio-emotional and intellectual development of children is reliant upon activity. Therefore, chance for play is a key feature of the successful kindergarten program. The program should build on, rather than detract from, this natural approach to learning. Through touching, manipulation of objects, exploration and testing, children finds out much about the world that surrounds them. Through interacting with other children and adults, they find out about themselves and their affiliation with others. Through play, children emulate adults and conduct experiments with what it means to be a caregiver, a fisherman, a policeman, a doctor or nurse and so on. Through play, they find out how to solve simple to complex problems and work cooperatively with others.

Children engage in different types of play depending upon situation and particular requirements. Categories of play range from inactive surveillance to active participation in group play necessitating planning and cooperation with their peers. Kindergartens give confidence through several types of play. Associative play takes place when children play with each other, sharing similar materials and activities in an unorganized approach. Cooperative play necessitates organization for a purpose. In solitary play, children play alone and autonomously, following their own curiosity without orientation to and from others. Children who look at other children playing, ask inquiries and offer suggestions, but do not actually engaged into the actual playing activity are said to be engaging in onlooker play. Children who simply play next to each other with the same materials are engaged in parallel play.

There are phases of complexity of play. The first stage of play is simple examination or handling of the play material. Examples of such play are doodling with crayons, discharging water back and forth, filling sand or ringing a bell. As children start to use things as symbols for something else, we say they are engaged in symbolic play. For instance, a child may cross two blocks to create an “airplane” or may employ interlocking blocks to create a “boat”. This is the stage of play used by many kindergarten children, who are in the preoperational stage. As children become capable to play cooperatively, they begin to play games in which they devise rules. These rules change frequently, and normally the players can shift with little endeavor while adults are puzzled by suppleness in the rules. Most kindergarten students are not prepared for the intricate level of play where game rules are inflexible.

According to Piaget, it is through play that children make sense of order and sensing out of their surroundings. They are continually organizing and reorganizing new data and new experiences they acquire. This process of altering previously established patterns of organization (schemas) is what Piaget calls learning. It is not the same kind of learning as simple recall of names or facts.

Experience has a consequence upon children’s play. In a kindergarten classroom, there may be some children who do not know how to play beneficially and ingeniously. They appoint in physical activities such as climbing, running or swinging, but are not able to contemplate very long or develop an idea through several levels of play. These children may be used to more passive activities such as watching television. Their natural tendencies to investigate and ask questions may not have been encouraged. For this reason, teachers need to help children develop ideas and, in some occurrence, provide a model for children by taking on a child’s role and entering into the play. It may not be enough to simply provide interesting and suitable play materials for this child to develop an inquisitive mind necessary for successful learning.

Children come to kindergarten having had very different sorts of experiences at home, in nursery schools, play groups or day- care centers. Therefore, their responses to the kindergarten program will vary. Some preschool and day-care programs encourage self-directed, self-initiated play while others place more importance on teacher-directed behavior and step-by-step dexterity. These programs often face the difficult chore of organizing large numbers of children in surroundings and facilities not designed for children and with too little supplementary materials. Just as parents and caregivers vary in the way they set limits and manage their children, preschools and day-care centers also employ different techniques of managing children in groups. When children enter kindergarten they sometimes need help in:

Using play as a revenue of developing confidence in themselves and their capacity to learn
Acquiring suitable social skills
Becoming self-directed individuals
Children who have accomplished a degree of self-confidence, appropriate social skills and self-direction are prepared to engage in the kind of sustained play which enables noteworthy growth in knowledge and understanding. A well-planned kindergarten program provides apt and suitable challenging activities and materials for each child, taking note of the individual needs of these children.

Related Studies

These descriptive studies focus on the examination of issues rather than intervention success. Though the studies reported here are rich in explanation about issues and factors influencing readiness and transition and family involvement, they do not provide empirical proof as to what interference can manufacture the most effective practices in family involvement as it relates to readiness and transition. The studies described below utilize either survey or co-relational designs. Additionally, the studies portrayed in this section not only present information on current research, they also help to describe what is recognized about successful family and community associations with schools efforts:

As part of a study for the National Center for Early Development & Learning’s kindergarten transition project, LaParo, Kraft-Sayre, and Pianta (2003) present expressive results on the kindergarten Transition Project, a 2-year intervention project in which family workers and teachers put into practice transition activities at a high minority school. The transition activities that was employed in this project included parent orientation meetings, newsletters, and teacher-parent communications. During the first project year, the study collected interview and educator questionnaire data on ninety five preschool children and their parents and families and the ten teachers that taught them; in the second year, data were collected on eighty six of the children, parents and families and the ten kindergarten teachers. The study established that more than fifty percent of families/ parents reported participation in majority of the transition activities that were made available to them, and most exemplify these activities as helpful in supporting their child’s transition to higher grades.

Rathbun and Germino-Hausken (2001) used teacher and administrator questionnaires from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, kindergarten Class of 1998–1999 (ECLS–K) to inspect the amount to which transitional activities offered by teachers or their schools are associated with various school character and with levels of parental involvement. Based on the responses of 3,243 kindergarten teachers, the researchers account that the number and type of transition activities vary by school characteristics. Teachers in schools with low population of at-risk children used a greater number of transition practices and practices that were further interactive with individual families, in comparison with teachers in schools with higher populations of at-risk children. While the study found that as far as parental involvement is concerned the teacher-reported levels shows that involvement was higher in private school kindergartens than in public school kindergartens. Additionally, a variety of transition practices were connected with teacher reports of greater parental involvement. These included calling families, sending information at home about the kindergarten program, hosting pre-enrollment school visits, providing parent orientations, and having preschooler use up some time in the kindergarten classroom. The researchers stated that increased efforts to work with families to ease transition for young students were correlated to successful schools.

The following three studies make available related findings that help practitioners in understanding further about building positive relationships with families in order to support student learning and transition in the early grades. In their study, Rimm-Kaufman and Pianta, (1999) described individuality of and changes in teacher-family contact in 2 preschools (1 Head Start) and 1 kindergarten over a 2-year period. Respondent children were derived from low-income families. In Year 1, the preschool and kindergarten teachers kept family involvement records describing contact with families of 290 children; in Year 2, kindergarten teachers kept family-school contact records on 82 of the children who had participated in the Year 1 study. Both longitudinal and cross-sectional investigations showed that teacher-family contact take place more frequently in both preschool programs than in kindergarten. The types of contact and sources of commencement of the contact also changed from preschool to kindergarten: Home visits, discussion during pickup and drop-off, and phone calls were more usual in preschool than kindergarten, whereas notes were more characteristic in kindergarten classes. Contacts shifted from being characteristically home-initiated while children were in preschool to school-initiated while children were in kindergarten. It is also noted that in preschool emphasis on the positive issued during discussions were made in larger percentages while family support especially for academic and behavioral problems of the children were discussed more frequently and openly during kindergarten levels (p.433).

Adding up to the above findings, Pianta, Kraft-Sayre, Rimm-Kaufman, Gerke, and Higgins (2001) in their study involved 110 children enrolled in 10 classrooms in 2 different preschool programs. Children were grouped by the school they would be attending in kindergarten. Though the study used a range of data collection methods, including surveys and interviews, this report focuses solely on a detachment of data collected on collaborative relationships among those involved. Much of this subset of data targeted communication tactics used by the educators to create a “support network” (pp. 123–124) for student education. The authors state that the procedure is complex and at times peculiar; however, the data made known that when there is a optimistic respect for the roles of all involved, the outcome can be a two-way relationship between families and school staff that can prop up student needs.

Rimm-Kaufman, Pianta, Cox, and Bradley (2003) supplemented to the two earlier studies in their observation-based study of 223 kindergarten children, their mother, and their educators. They found that when families are actively involved in their children’s education at this level, the two-way relationships recognized between the teacher and the family affiliates will generate a more substantial support system for student education and will “bolster children’s achievement” (p. 193).

As the child begins kindergarten schooling, it’s imperative that the parent make an unbiased assessment of the likelihood for school success.  There’s a tendency among some parents to heave academics down their children’s throats. Parent’s participation in their child’s success at school involves a much wider approach.  As the parent observes their child, it is good to ask themselves the following questions:

Ø  Is the child able to play willingly with similar-age kids?

Ø  Does he propose ideas, and is he acquiescent to listening to others’ opinion and judgments?

Ø  Has he had practice waiting for his turn or standing in line and just sitting in a circle while listening to a teacher read?

If not, rather than chastise him or pester him about his incapability to do any of these skills, play out circumstances imaginatively with toy figurines; integrate these social skills into their actions. Also invite a child into the home weekly so that the child can practice socializing. By doing so, he will gradually master the social skills he is expected to possess in kindergarten.

Does the child enjoy listening to stories? To enable him to sit still and learn to listen, read to the child for at least 20 minutes a day and notice if she follows the terminology on the page from left to right. Can she tell what occurred at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the story?  It is important for the parent to realize that it’s not their job to teach the children to read but rather to enjoy the books.  The important matter is to let them enjoy the stories and realize that they will not only learn from the books but enjoy them as well.

Is the child somewhat independent when it comes to self-help skills? Can she dress herself, zip her coat, manage tasks in the bathroom, and put shoes on and off using Velcro? Does she take responsibility for putting toys away? After dinner does the child carry her plate from the table to the counter?

If the parent complete these chores for the child, then it might be time to back off and let the child do it for her/him self. Completing such tasks not only makes it easier on the teacher when the time comes but it also builds competency and independence in children.

Does the child have a consistent bedtime and routine? If bedtime is chaotic, an earlier time one night and a later time in another, establishment of a bedtime routine accompanied by a predictable path like put on pajamas, brush teeth, use the toilet, read a story, then lights out will be a good practice to develop in children. The parent must realize that adequate sleep is essential to school success.

Does the child enjoy counting games? A good way to practice counting is when estimating the number of plates required for dinner guests, let the child do the counting. Rather than pierce the child about adding and subtracting, math can be used in everyday situations. This way she begins to understand math concepts and their real-life applications.

Does the child manage his emotions? Emotional outbursts hold back learning. Therefore it’s imperative that children gradually learn to deal with the wide range of emotions they acquire. If your child can not, when she’s emotional, you can put a name to it. Like for example, that’s frustration, anger, sadness or disappointment. Settle with your child; soon the emotion will disappear, when he learns to practice, when at school, he’ll be able to talk himself through emotional situations all on his own.  If your child acts out his emotions negatively, stop him and say, “You can be annoyed at your friend, but I won’t allow you to hit your friend.”

Be sure to talk optimistically about kindergarten. Also, when your child speaks, learn to listen and verify her ideas. Communicate by your language and actions that you place significance on your child’s mind and personality. If you value your child, he’ll anticipate the same from others. If you’re so busy that you can not incorporate these simple school success proposals into your everyday life, it’s time to inquire as to the reasons and formulate some adjustments.

Context for Learning

A kindergarten student well prepared for Grade 1 can:

make fine visual discriminations, scanning and sorting out new objects or signs
locate things and events in time and space
talk contentedly with adults and use words for learning
use examples as an approach to learning new concepts and inquire to be able to gather new information
Initiate and attend to tasks with concentration, oppose distractions, focus on suitable details, and persist until a task is completed.
The requirements and benefit of the children serve as the focal point around which daily and weekly activities are designed. However, as teachers design experiences and activities to meet the developmental needs of children, they should also make available opportunities for children to acquire the knowledge, processes, skills, abilities and values which comprise the foundation for learning in each Required Area of Study. Teachers’ planning should outcome in a challenging “contest” between children’s needs and abilities and the foundational objectives to be achieved. Within a carefully designed atmosphere the teacher campaigns learning experiences that will facilitate children to accomplish kindergarten program objectives.

As the child enters the big school, will she be ready? Five experienced kindergarten teachers were asked what skills they would like their students to have. Astonishingly, they did not stress knowing letters, numbers, shapes and colors instead they focused on preparedness and willingness to learn. In order to achieve this, the parent can build the child’s:

Ø  Curiosity – Help her discover the world. Go for nature walks. Show how things work.

Ø  Oral-language skills – Give the child plenty of new experiences to construct her understanding and vocabulary. Name and describe what she sees.

Ø  Listening skills – Read and tell stories together. Break when the child makes comments or fills in parts she memorized.

Ø  Critical thinking – While reading, ask the child why she thinks something happen. Can she predict what will happen next?

Ø  Independence – Teach the child self-help skills, such as dressing herself, pouring a drink and zipping her coat.

Ø  Social skills – let the child practice playing and sharing with peers. Make time for regular social activities and let the child play with others, this is the only way she will learn to socialize.

Ø  Fine-motor skills – Give the child materials and stuff like clay, balls, paints and more to develop finger dexterity. A variety of writing materials can also be utilized

No matter what methods are attempted with the child, the most important thing to keep in mind is to make them enjoyable for the child. The parent may want the child to associate positive feelings with learning. Take turns choosing activities; give the child some choice some times. This makes them sense less ordered to and more willing to learn. Also, offer them some selection in activities, do not always apply the same learning methods all of the time as this can create boredom and lack of interest. Choose the methods that work best with the child (every child is different) and have fun! Children are like flowers, they all blossom at different times. But, parents can help nurture them by making available experiences that allow them to blossom into children who love learning and love to be in school.

Summary

            The review of literature shows the historical background of study as well as recent literature encompassing success of a kindergarten student as being ready for school as well as the necessity that school must also be read to accommodate these students in the sense that proper programs must be met in order to help the child learn to love school and learning.  A child must also have family and community support so that success can be achieved.  It may also be derived from the studies noted in this review that parents play an important role in kindergarten success. Survey also noted that teachers and caregivers did not note academic knowledge like knowing how to count or know the ABCs as essential in success but rather knowledge in self help activities, socialization skills and the willingness to learn and follow instructions as essential for success while parents agree that it is not essential to know academics in order to succeed they believe that it still plays an important role.  Transition activities and pre-kindergarten classes also help children achieve kindergarten and many parents do participate in such and thus helps their children achieve success.  It is also a good practice for parents to incorporate learning with day to day activities and nurturing the child to become lovers of learning is one of the best things parents can do for their child.

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