Pre-K and Early Childhood Policies and Systems

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I am very excited to be working on a course this semester on Early Childhood Policies and Systems.  In my years spent in early childhood education, I have always been interested in why we do the things we do.  Since I was the first Pre-K teacher in my school system, I had to very quickly learn much about the rules and policies governing our program in order to be an effective teacher that followed the guidelines established for a Lottery Pre-K classroom in Tennessee.  During the past 9 years, I have worked closely with the State Department to make sure that our program is following policies and meeting the standards for our students.  Every year, we establish goals that can make our program better in an effort to continually grow and improve.  In this course, I have been asked to think about early childhood policies and systems and set goals that will enable me to be a better educator.  These goals are more program orientated than classroom orientated and should focus on making our program more effective.

When thinking of ways to make our program better, I initially think of data collection and how to assess children with the ability to share and compare data with other Pre-K teachers and Kindergarten teachers.  We currently pre-screen children in July to determine if visual, motor, or language delays exist and we use that data to divide children evenly based on gender, race, and level of readiness into classes.  We feel that this even distribution of varying levels will allow all children to learn from each other and be successful.  After school begins in the fall, we give each student a Formative Assessment to establish a base-line for instruction.  We re-administer the assessment again in the spring to determine growth for the year.  We also pre-and post-test skills taught in each theme of our curriculum to measure growth.  While I value the necessary data these assessments provide, I feel that we should have a more standardized measuring tool that would show growth from the beginning of Pre-K until after Kindergarten or even 1st grade.  The ability to have multi-year data beginning in Pre-K would be so important when working with our at-risk students and their families by being able to show growth and improvement or challenging areas that needed to be worked on at home. 

The second goal that I have for our program is to create a community of practice made up of preschool teachers, directors, Pre-K teachers, and Kindergarten teachers that collaborate in order to share knowledge and collaborate on best practices for our students.  I do not believe that “school readiness” means the same thing to all early childhood professionals, but with the presence of Kindergarten Common Core we all must all be on the same page with instructional goals for 4 year olds going forth.  By engaging all 4 year old teachers with Kindergarten teachers, that goal can be achieved and ideas can be shared about how to best meet those learning standards.  I believe by validating everyone’s role in educating our children, we can build a team that will strengthen our Kindergarten program and benefit all students, but especially those at-risk students.  This team should be available to meet regularly before, during and after the school year to support each other and discuss progress monitoring.  For too many years, child care prior to Kindergarten has been removed from the scope of public education, but I believe the time is right to join together and work as a team.

The third goal that I have for our Pre-K program is the formation of a Pre-K Committee that includes parents, teachers, and administration with the purpose of assessing our program for strengths and weaknesses each year.  We have worked hard to include parents in our program, but their participation has been on the outside looking in.  I want to design a questionnaire for parents to fill out at the beginning of the year discussing their expectations and goals for their child’s year in Pre-K.  I also want us to seek out parents that would be willing to meet regularly and serve on a committee that will evaluate how our program is meeting the needs of our children and their families.  This committee would discuss how to better reach parents and what educational programs would benefit our families.  I envision that these committee members would be more accessible to people that might feel intimidated by a teacher, administrator, or the formal school setting.  I believe that by empowering parents as part of the educational team, they will encourage each other to be involved and provide important feedback that will improve our program.

The fourth goal I have for our Pre-K program is to seek funding for a before and after school program that will provide our families with high quality care during non-school hours.  Some of the families that we serve are employed during certain hours that make it difficult for them to get their child to school on time or pick their child up during our 2:15 pm dismissal.  We currently have an after school program, but it is only child care and not academic in any way.  I envision a before school program that gives children an opportunity to begin their day playing in learning centers and interacting with peers or working collaboratively to build using manipulatives.  Also I would like to provide an after school program that takes the classroom learning to another level through hands-on activities, dramatic play, art, and music.  Many of our students that stay for after school care are the same ones that would benefit from extra small group time devoted to mastering the skills that they are lacking.  These students would also benefit from extra one-on-one time spent in language acquisition and reading with teachers, assistance, or volunteers.

The fifth and final goal I see for our program would be to work with community leaders to establish a summer program available to all families that would help children continue to be engaged in learning during the months they are out of school.  Our at-risk children experience delays during this down time and lose some of the important gains that they made in Pre-K, but by creating a program where they will meet during the summer we can avoid some of that loss of knowledge prior to entering Kindergarten.  We are fortunate in my community to have a state-of-the-art public library that provides an excellent summer reading program.  We also have recently opened a 10 million dollar Discovery Museum that has an outstanding children’s area.  These two facilities can be utlized to provide students and families with enriching family activities during the summer months. By enriching these children’s experiences, language, and background knowledge, they will be better prepared for the world of Kindergarten and all that is expected of them.

Our Pre-K program is outstanding and I am so proud to be a member of such a strong teaching team, but I know that there is work to be done and I am excited for the challenge of the goals I have set for us to make our program even stronger for our students, families, and our community.

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14 thoughts on “Pre-K and Early Childhood Policies and Systems

  1. Kimberly,
    You have established some wonderful goals for the Pre-K program. I agree a data collection system would be beneficial. I know Florida has established pre-k assessments that are recorded online on the state Bright Beginnings system. The student results are printed and the information is shared with kindergarten teachers. I do know it is used in evaluating the pre-k program as well. Once in kindergarten, the students are evaluated through FAIR, Florida Assessment in Reading which is computer based and given 3 times a year. This information is track as the student progresses through elementary school.
    A possible funding source for the before school and after school care is a 21st century grant. You can gather information online.
    Good luck with meeting your goals.
    Sharon Lloyd

    • I went online and looked at the Bright Beginnings website and I am very impressed. Tennessee could certainly use a system similar to yours. I liked that all the information was accessible from one site and data could be shared with other teachers easily. Thank you for the information about the funding source, I will look into that information to help with my goals.

  2. Wow Kimberly what practical, functional goals! I like the fact that you are already incorporating what you plan on learning in this current class to make a change where you are presently working. I especially like your first goal where you emphasized the importance of collecting data so that a comparison could be made between the child’s progress in Pre-K to Kindergarten or even to the first grade. I think it is essential for parents and teachers to see that progress so that they can better understand what need are being met and in what areas the child may consistently show weaknesses. An assessment may help to pick up on whether a child may have difficulty with reading later on in the school year or closer towards first grade. I personally like to re-assess my clients every 3-6 months. It is very rewarding to see the vast amounts of progress made and be able to show the parents how their consistency, good attendance, and reinforcement of therapy techniques at home are truly helping their children.

    • Thank you for your response. I want to be able to use what we have learned in the class to make my program better and raise awareness for the importance of high quality early childhood education. These are areas that I struggle with during the year and hope that I can find realistic ways to meet our needs through changes in policies and mindset within my school system. Assessment is something we work towards constantly, but I do not believe it is as effective as it could be for our program.

  3. Kimberly,
    Engaging preschool, Pre-k, kindergarten, and first grade teachers in collaboration is a wonderful idea. The changes recently encountered trying to incorporate common core and state standards is a large undertaking. Examining and readjusting the goals in each grade will insure a more smooth transition for the children. Many times we become so busy trying to stay focused on our goals and requirements, we forget to make sure the goals align effectively. I also like the idea of a before and after-school care for children. Many parents’ schedules are not flexible enough to accommodate a school day schedule. Many schools offer some after-school care, but as you stated it is primarily just babysitting. Many children who are struggling would benefit from some enrichment and remediation. It would also benefit parents who are unsure what skills to work on with their child to help them gain appropriate skills. Having trained professionals available to help the students would be a wonderful asset to many schools in my community.
    Cynthia Thralls

  4. I believe that meaningful, scheduled collaboration is a great way to keep everyone “in the loop” and make sure that we are using best practices for our students. By enabling all teachers as team members, I feel that positive ideas can be shared and discussed using respect and professionalism. I am excited about the possibility of providing a before and after school experience for our children, not only to assist families needing additional care, but to allow children needing extra help time to get more one-on-one attention from teachers.

  5. I agree! Why do we do the things the way we do them? I love your goals and found it truly inspirational how you strive to make the environments within your sphere of influence so meaningful. You can truly sense your passion for providing these kinds of quality programs for children and families.

    • Thank you for you kind words and I am very passionate about making my program better each year. I love my job and want to make a difference in my community by raising awareness of the need for high quality early childhood education. I want to understand policies that govern our work and question why, when I feel that they need questioning.

  6. Kimberly,
    You have compiled five goals that will make profound differences in children and in their families. If you had to select one goal to focus your attention on this semester, which goal would it be and why? How can this goal help you attain your other goals?

    • My goal for this semester is to begin to compile data and research funding for a before and after school child care program. This goal is one that affects my students and their families presently. I want to support parents that are trying to hold down a job by providing child care during the hours that they are working. Also I want to make sure that we spend the extra hours engaged in activities that will enrich the children’s learning. By providing much needed care for their child, families will hopefully will have more time to spend with their child participating in school events, parent engagement, and working at home on needed skills.

  7. Kimberly,
    I completely agree with your first goal. We should have more data collection in Pre-K. In my county no data collection of any kind starts until kindergarten. Now we are behind in the times in the fact that we still have some elementary schools that don’t even offer a Pre-K program yet, so that is an issue in itself. The students who do attend Pre-K could really benefit from being tracked by data to show their growth from their Pre-K to K year and beyond. I have a strong hope that in the future we will see data collection at the Pre-K level.

    • I agree that we are missing out on a whole year of data by not tracking children enrolled in Pre-K programs. I feel that a universal data collection system would benefit all teachers and enable them to better meet the needs of their students no matter where they come from before Kindergarten.

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