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Ready or Not, Here I Come!

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Guest Blogger Norma Meek is retired from the Boyd County School System and is currently a Mutt-i-grees Educational Consultant for the North Shore Animal League and Yale School of the 21 st Century. She is a member of the Prichard Committee and serves on numerous local Boards as a director.

Most of us are familiar with this "tag" line from our childhood.

In August thousands of energetic kindergarten students entered school full of hope and anticipation. Many were armed with the skills necessary to be successful, but alas, many were not. KY's School Readiness Definition states that every child will be: Ready to Grow....Ready to Learn.... Ready to Succeed.

In 2012 more than one hundred pilot schools in KY were given the Kindergarten Common Screener. Only 28% of entering kindergarteners performed within the Ready or Ready with Enrichments range while 72 % fell below this range and were designated Ready with Supports. What does that mean? For teachers it means that they can now "identify "early which students need additional focus. For KY it means that there is an immediate need to put Early Education as a top priority. This means well before the child ever begins their formal education.

I have always heard that when people have the correct information, they make better choices.

What is the correct information?

1. This year all children entering kindergarten were given the Kindergarten Common Screener. (Results are not yet available to the public)

2. Last year's students did fall within the average/above average range across three domains.

3. Kentucky's future as a state depends on the very young entering our schools for the first time.

4. The Early Childhood Education Department is working tirelessly to bring an awareness and support for preschool readiness.

Terry S. Tolan, Executive Director for the Governor's Office of Early Childhood states "We are very pleased to have partnered with KDE to launch the first Universal Common Kindergarten Screen for all children entering kindergarten, and we are anxious to have the first year of complete data. I am a great believer that what gets measured gets done. Regardless of whether we are pleased or troubled by the results, we will know for the first time where Kentucky is today. And we will have a basis to measure our progress through the progress of five-year-olds in the future."

Who is responsible for making sure that these five=year-olds enter school Ready to Grow...Ready to Learn....Ready to Succeed? You and me! Every citizen in this great Commonwealth. We are the stakeholders. We hold their future in our hands. Schools, Parents, Legislators, Private Providers, City Government, Chambers of Commerce, Service Organizations such as Rotary and United Way, Churches and anyone else that I have forgotten.

You may be thinking that once in school and with good teaching they will soon catch up. Not always true. I looked at the highest kindergarten scores last year in our state and contacted several key people in that particular community. What they all attributed their success to was the value the community placed on education. I further examined this community's scores as they progressed through elementary, middle and high school. Their scores consistently stayed in the top 10% in the state. Start prepared....end successful.

I would like to offer a list of simple ways that every stakeholder in Kentucky can get involved with little effort and money and put them in the forefront as an educational leader in their community.

· Kroger stores across the state could highlight a fruit or vegetable each Saturday and have a tasting party for children in their store to educate them about different healthy fruits and vegetables. Ex. Kiwi, avocado, etc.

· Bob Evans and McDonalds could have place mats with education skills and strategies for kindergarten readiness. Parents/Grandparents would become familiar with those skills along with their three and four year olds thus strengthening outcomes.

· Churches could add a section for preschool tips in their weekly bulletin sent to thousands of homes across the state.

· Banks could add a new pre-school skill at the top of each bank statement sent out monthly.

· Wal-Mart and others could offer certain sale items if young parents and caregivers would listen to a fifteen minute educational program in the store one day a week on the importance of early success in school.

· Hometown cinemas could send educational messages across the screen while waiting for the movie to start.

· Chamber of Commerce and service organizations could participate in making all these things a reality in a short period of time.

· Young parents listen to their pediatrician. They need to educate on every visit.

This is just the beginning of a long list of ways to keep the importance of

preschool education in the minds of every KY citizen 365 days each year.

Yes, they are coming " Ready or Not" and will continue year after year after year.

Making preschool readiness a top priority wouldn't really be that difficult and I

firmly believe that in three years Kentucky could have the most capable, ready

preschoolers in the nation.

After all, our preschoolers are already number one in the nation for adorable.

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