Book, program get children off
to a great start in school
By Anne Bromley
weeks before school started, Nates teacher called. It was
great, [and it] made Nate feel great. What a nice thing to do!
first week of school, the teacher called to say that my child
should be evaluated for Ritalin.
not hard to pick which example parents would rather have as a
first contact with their childs kindergarten teacher.
actual comments come from U.Va. education professor Robert Piantas
long-term study of young children and their transition to elementary
school. In a collaborative effort with the National Center for
Early Development & Learning, Pianta and his team have been
working on the Kindergarten Transition Project since 1995. They
have created a flexible framework for enhancing childrens
transitions into kindergarten that involves children, schools
and support resources.
and research assistant Marcia Kraft-Sayre recently published a
workbook on how to develop and implement a plan, Successful
Kindergarten Transition: Your Guide to Connecting Children, Families
and Schools. Geared toward educators, from school principals
to kindergarten and preschool teachers, Piantas book addresses
families as well, and it could also be used in teacher education
have shown that childrens early success in school influences
their continued academic achievement. Almost 75 percent of the
kindergarten population has had some form of preschool, said Pianta.
But, according to kindergarten teachers, about half of children
have problems making the transition from preschool to kindergarten.
Some have considerable problems during the transition that are
not dealt with until teachers have pinpointed them later in the
school year. Pianta and Kraft-Sayre also surveyed parents, who
said they felt that the differences between the two school settings
had posed difficulties for their children. The researchers found
that too little outreach, if any, before school started was extended
to parents and children in preparation for kindergarten.
transition problems can either be prevented or addressed earlier
and more proactively when a school has a set of practices and
procedures designed to enhance connections among the school, families
and early childhood providers in the community, Pianta said.
A handful of states and school districts, including Charlottesvilles,
have already adopted the transition model. Speaking at conferences
also has helped spread the word: As a result of Pianta participating
in the National Governors Association conference in early
August, the approach is being considered nationally.
is clear that the focus in early education and school readiness,
at the national and state levels, has moved from getting
children ready for school to now include a focus on how
schools become ready for children and their families, Pianta
How parents can help their child make a successful transition
If your childs school does have a transition program,
Ask to meet with the childs teacher as early
as possible and talk about your childs personality,
interests and strengths. In your description, try to give
the teacher a picture of your child.
Tell the teacher what you want your child to learn.
Teachers say that children who dont have an established
routine at home have more trouble adapting to the routine
of the school day.
making the daily schedule at home more consistent.
developmental model takes into account the childs abilities
and skills, the influence of the social environment on the child,
and other influences, including friends and community settings,
as well as parents and teachers. The good news is its not
too costly to plan and implement the program. Having someone in
the school shift duties and become the transition coordinator
works well, he said.
begin with, schools need to start planning for the kindergarten
transition a year ahead. They can choose from a menu of options
that bring participants together in orientation sessions, informational
meetings, school visits, summer programs and other opportunities
for more informal give-and-take. Identifying barriers to communication
and how to dismantle them is part of creating a network of support.
The coordinator should find out when parents are most often available
for some kind of involvement.
out what works for families, said Nancy Gercke, coordinator
for the Charlottesville preschool and kindergarten transition
programs. Instead of one central pre-school program, Charlottesville
relocated it to six different elementary schools, making it easier
for families to attend programs and for student interaction, she
a simple procedure like making up the class lists months ahead
instead of typically waiting until the end of the summer can allow
teachers more time to talk with each other and communicate with
new children and their parents.
preschool and kindergarten teachers is key. Preschool programs
exist in a variety of places private schools, churches,
day-care centers and in typically smaller settings than
elementary schools. Preschool personnel may have had more opportunity
to get to know the children and families and can pass along important
the goal of a good transition program is to create a process for
children who might have adjustment problems to get the support
they need. That way, theyll have a better chance to succeed