Transitioning to Kindergarten

Summer 2011

CPS has no policy requiring full-day kindergarten, no cohesive literacy curriculum and no comprehensive plan to transition children from preschool to kindergarten. Some children have a rich experience, while others get a bare-bones start.

This issue on kindergarten, the critical year in which students make the transition to formal schooling, was made possible by a grant from the McCormick Foundation. For more about the foundation, go to www.mccormickfoundation.org.

Table of Contents

The kindergarten challenge

Rebecca Harris

On the first day of school at Ashe Elementary, kindergarten teacher Monica Hamilton had 14 students for a full-day class—small enough to give each child plenty of attention and, according to research, make a significant impact on learning. But that was about to change.

Nearly two-thirds of the children who would end up in Hamilton’s class had yet to show up for school. As they did, she quickly found herself struggling to corral about 40 kindergarteners.

When students came back from fall break on October 12 (Ashe is a Track E school and operates on a year-round calendar with...

elementary and K-8 schools, preschool

Smoothing the way into kindergarten

Rebecca Harris

Parents whose children attend Educare early childhood center in Grand Boulevard get an education in how to navigate Chicago’s maze of school choices and in how to prepare their little ones for kindergarten.

Educare houses one of the few preschools in the city that focuses on the preschool-to-kindergarten transition. Through ongoing research on the program’s results, staff members also stay in contact with their students and the students’ families as they move through elementary school—something that is often hard to do.

But all the staff and resources to provide this extra...

preschool

A bridge to build

Rebecca Harris

Kindergarten teacher Kate Durham of Chicago International Charter School in Bucktown pulls out files and starts reading out loud information about her students’ previous educational experience. 

Seven of the children never went to preschool. Some attended preschool at one of a dizzying array of elementary schools—McAuliffe, Yates, Henry, Belmont-Cragin, Mozart, Cameron, Burbank and Schubert. Other children went to one of at least nine different child care centers or community-based Head Start programs.

All in all, the children’s experiences are so varied that there’s no way...

elementary and K-8 schools, preschool

Reading fundamentals

Rebecca Harris

In fall 2007, CPS took a step aimed at bringing more consistency to reading instruction across the district by launching an initiative to get schools to adopt one of a number of selected reading curricula.

By the end of the 2009-10 school year, more than 300 schools had made the switch under the Supported Core Reading Materials Adoption program.

Although it’s unclear how many more schools have chosen one of the programs since then, one fact is important to note: In a district with high student mobility, like Chicago, allowing schools wide discretion to pick their own...

elementary and K-8 schools, preschool, reading and writing

On their best behavior

Rebecca Harris

On a day early in the school year, Mays Elementary School kindergarten teacher Arnitra Campbell is having a rough day, wrestling with a roomful of antsy students. One spits on the table, getting a rise out of his classmates. Other children can’t seem to stop talking, even turning their backs on Campbell to socialize with friends. 

“The noise level should be zero,” she says. “What does that mean?”

“Be quiet,” some students say.

“Ms. Campbell doesn’t say ‘Be quiet, no talking,’” she responds. “Rule number 6 says, ‘We will not talk when our teacher is talking.’”

...

elementary and K-8 schools

When Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the new $500 million Early Learning Challenge Grant competition in late May, educators weren’t the only ones who joined him at the event. Duncan was accompanied by an array of leaders from outside the education world who endorsed Duncan’s call for increasing investment in early education.

When Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the new $500 million Early Learning Challenge Grant competition in late May, educators weren’t the only ones who joined him at the event. Duncan was...
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Research has linked a host of benefits to full-day kindergarten, which education advocates and policymakers say should become the new standard. These benefits include:

  • Fewer English-language learners held back
  • More time engaged in reading and math lessons and greater gains
  • Teachers have the time to plan better lessons

In general, CPS forwards to schools only enough money for them to offer half-day kindergarten. It forces the majority of schools to use their own discretionary money if they want to have a full-day program.

Research has linked a host of benefits to full-day kindergarten, which education advocates and policymakers say should become the new standard. These benefits include: Fewer English-language learners...
Read More

Just as in kindergarten, preschool educators use a variety of programs and strategies to teach literacy skills. And the question of what is developmentally appropriate for young children is a key point of contention.

Many preschools use the Creative Curriculum, which emphasizes exposing students to language in its natural context but offers little in the way of explicit instruction, notes Terry Carter, a past principal of Barton Elementary who is now director of learning and organizational development for Academy for Urban School Leadership.

Just as in kindergarten, preschool educators use a variety of programs and strategies to teach literacy skills. And the question of what is developmentally appropriate for young children is a key...
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