double school busConferences are scheduled in all classrooms this week; hence it seemed appropriate to discuss kindergarten readiness in this week’s Director’s Corner.  The dynamics of kindergarten have changed dramatically since you were a child.  No longer is it a time to adjust to the “big school” with naps or rest periods, even if attending for a few hours a day.  Today’s kindergartner is expected to hit the door ready to learn.
A few “buzz” words you may have heard among your friends and neighbors.
[su_label]Kindergarten Screening[/su_label]The kindergarten screening is just that, a screening.  It is not a pass/fail type situation.  The only criteria for entrance into kindergarten is age eligibility, which in the Hilliard City School District is 5 years old by September 30th.  The purpose is not to determine whether or not your child can go to kindergarten, but rather is the kindergarten classroom ready for your child.  The district is screening your child for issues in vision, hearing, speech and communication skills, medical issues, and developmental delays.  They want to be prepared for your child prior to his/her entrance into kindergarten.
[su_label]Kindergarten Assesment[/su_label]: Once your child enters kindergarten, he/she will be further assessed in the classroom.  Prior to the 2013-2014 school year, the assessment process was conducted during the first few weeks of school using a measurement tool called the KRA-L.  Beginning in 2013, the children will be assessed using a new tool which is being developed by the Ohio Department of Education.  The results of the assessment will be used to determine which children will be placed in the KLIP Program.
[su_label]KLIP: Kindergarten Literacy Intervention Program[/su_label]: Typically the district offers half day kindergarten.  The exception being those children that qualify for the Kindergarten Literacy Intervention Program or KLIP.  Each of the elementary schools house a KLIP classroom, the only exception being Norwich which is already a full day K-1 split program.  KLIP is comprised of students that the screening indicated a need for additional classroom services.  Those children will attend kindergarten all day.  KLIP is actually a wonderful class, filled with engaging and fun activities for your child.  To qualify for KLIP, your child must also exhibit the social and emotional growth to withstand an all day curriculum.  KLIP should not be viewed as an negative, but rather an opportunity for the child to grow and to become a better reader.
[su_label]Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee[/su_label]: Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, third grade students scoring below a certain level on the state reading test will not be promoted to the fourth grade.  What does the Third Grade Guarantee have to do with your preschooler?  Due to the enactment of the Third Grade Guarantee the expectations in kindergarten through second grade have increased.
Now that you are familiar with the basic “lingo,” the question is should you send your child to kindergarten.  Is your child ready? What can you do to prepare him/her at home?  It is a misnomer to simply say that your child knows their letters, shapes and numbers, so he/she must be ready for kindergarten.  The question is simply bigger than the academics.  According to kindergarten teachers across the country defined the top readiness skills as:
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  • Enthusiasm towards learning
  • Ability to listen
  • Strong language skills
  • Willingness and ability to be independent
  • Ability to play well with others
  • Strong fine motor skills
  • Ability to write name
  • Concepts of print
  • Basic counting concepts
  • Ability to follow directions
  • Pencil grip
  • Knowledge of shapes, letters, numbers and colors[/su_list]

Please take note that the items at the top of the list are not academic based but rather based on the development of social and emotional skills.  They are also interested in knowing that their new students are interested in learning, and that they are able to demonstrate skills such as listening to directions, able to communicate with others, and able to work well with others.
Accordingly, the U.S. Department of Education recommends that you ask yourself the following questions to help decide if your child truly is ready for kindergarten:
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  • Kindergarten is, naturally, a group setting. Do you think your child could get along in this type of cooperative learning environment?
  • Can your child follow two or three oral directions, start and finish a task, and listen to a story in a group setting?
  • Is he/she able to follow rules and respect the people around him or her (and their belongings)?
  • Does your child know the difference between work and play?
  • Are his/her gross- and fine-motor skills on track for his/her age? Meaning, can he/she run and climb, and use a pencil, crayons, and scissors?
  • Does he/she recognize colors and shapes (at least the basic ones)?
  • Does he/she understand the concept of a story?[/su_list]

If you child has a summer birthday, which is traditionally defined as being born between the beginning of May and the end of September, the decision becomes a bit more difficult.  Your child is indeed considered of school age, but is he/she ready to make that transition?  Sometimes, it simply comes down to do you want your child to be the youngest or oldest in the classroom.  Often older children have the maturity to be leaders, rather than followers.  When advising parents within our preschool, teachers ask the following:
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  • Does your child have the stamina for the rigors of the classroom?
  • Is your child shy?  Will he/she be willing to ask the teacher questions?  Children that are introverts may fall behind in school, because of their unwillingness to express concerns or ask the questions needed for understanding of concepts.
  • In our classrooms, is he/she cooperative?  Does he/she engage in the activities provided by the staff?
  • Is he/she willing to try new activities?[/su_list]

As standards are changing within the public school system we are changing our curriculum as  well. We consider those children with summer birthdays to be blessed with the gift of time.  The gift of another year to grow and learn, prior to entering the public school system.  A gift to be little, even if for just a moment in time.
Robin Ozbolt