Gone are the days of kindergarten being full of coloring and taking naps.
Indiana's kindergarten standards have changed over the past two years. Students are now expected to be able to read by the end of their first semester. For that to be possible, today's kindergarten students must be able to recite the alphabet and be able to count to 20 or 30.
However, many students enter kindergarten behind the learning curve, local educators say.
"Every year, we have students start kindergarten unprepared academically and socially," said Mary Harper, Shelbyville Central Schools assistant superintendent.
With that said, Shelbyville schools use a partnership with Community Aspiration's Action Team 1, which focuses on pre-kindergarten education, to try to increase the awareness of the skills needed to will help children start their first school year strong.
"Prior to some of these initiatives, close to 60 percent of our incoming kindergartners were considered behind on the first day. Though we have decreased that percentage by some, the new rigorous kindergarten standards have caused us to see a slight increase in the percentage of students lacking the critical kindergarten readiness skills," Harper said.
Students must have the ability to count to 30; write their name; recognize basic letters, numbers and colors; and follow multi-step directions.
"Incoming kindergarten students should also be able to listen for short periods of time, get along with others and exhibit independent self-help skills like toileting needs and eating independently," Harper said.
Waldron Elementary School kindergarten teacher Deb Dalley said teachers are grateful that there is now full-day kindergarten to give them time to teach the standards.
"The bar has certainly been raised for kindergarten. What used to be first grade material is now kindergarten material, and what used to be kindergarten material is now left to the preschools to accomplish," Dalley said. "The tricky part is that some children do not attend preschool or learn basic readiness skills from their parents or childcare providers before kindergarten and this puts some students at a disadvantage."
Dalley said Waldron conducts spring screening prior to kindergarten entrance in the fall and the teachers spend time with parents asking for their help in assessing their child's needs.
She said Action Team 1 programming like the pre-K booster Jumpstart has been a help.
"We also have kindergarten readiness questionnaires around the county that help parents know what is expected of children entering school in August," Dalley said. "The Jumpstart program, offered to students who screen poorly or have not attended preschool, does make a difference by introducing students to school routines, how to hold a pencil and use materials, but it cannot completely compensate for lack of preschool or help from home."
Joan Livingston, principal at St. Joseph Catholic School, said at the beginning of this school year, there were a few 5-year-olds at her school who did not know how to hold a pencil or write their name. She added that letter recognition, sounds and numbers were also difficult for some.
"But most of our students attend preschool and this definitely helps in all of the mentioned skill areas. The new standards for kindergarten are tough, but our teacher is working through them," Livingston said.
Southwestern Elementary School Principal Heather Noesges said the majority of students entering kindergarten this year at her school were prepared for the curriculum.
"Most of our students come prepared due to the fact that they attended at least one year of preschool. The preschool providers in our area do a great job of preparing the students. Many students come into our school knowing letters, sounds and some even come to us reading," she said. "However, we do have a few students that struggle with the rigorous kindergarten curriculum. For a few of our students, this is the first time they are exposed to a structured class setting. Generally, these are the students who did not attend preschool or are not exposed to literature at home."
Noesges added that her teachers work hard with each student to push them to higher levels or help close the gap for the struggling students.
"By the end of the year, students should be well-prepared for the first grade," she said.
Harper said the new common core kindergarten standards are rigorous, but added they are important because they now align to the new expectations in grades one to 12.
"Though students may enter kindergarten behind, by the end of the year, over 90 percent of the students are at grade level. Unfortunately, Indiana is behind many states in the support of early childhood education. We would make great strides with all students if all day kindergarten was fully funded and all 4-year-olds could attend a year of preschool," she said.
By Paul Gable
Source: Shelbynews - http://goo.gl/39Nig