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					        Achieving
School Readiness:
       A Guide for
    Local School
    Communities
Dear Colleague:

The early years matter! And, there are many ways communities can make the most of these early years.

Currently in Maryland, 5 in 10 children entering kindergarten are not fully ready for school. Local school
communities can play a major role in helping children be ready to succeed in school and supporting parents as
first teachers by launching an Achieving School Readiness program.

Ready At Five’s Achieving School Readiness (ASR) program, a unique and results-oriented model, is designed
to:
 Improve children’s initial readiness for school;
 Foster effective practices that encourage collaboration among a young child’s first teachers—parents, early
    care and education professionals, and elementary school staff; and
 Create high quality early learning environments for young children.

Since 1998, Ready At Five has worked with over 20 school communities in six jurisdictions to facilitate long-
term systemic efforts and specific activities to improve children’s readiness for school. Based on this work, we
know that the ASR program is effective and it is making a difference; schools and local communities initiating
ASR programs have gained important benefits.

The focus of this publication, Achieving School Readiness: A Guide for School Communities is to enhance
your capacity to make a difference for young Maryland’s children. It will show you how to design an ASR in
your school community by focusing in three strategic areas — taking Action, Building Public Awareness, and
Communicating and Collaborating. And, it provides detailed information, specific strategies, practical
examples, and tips.

I encourage you to take action now to ensure that children enter school ready to succeed. Together, each of us
can make a difference for young children, their parents, the community and our collective future. No agenda is
more critical.

Best of Luck!




Louise J. Corwin
Executive Director
THE EARLY YEARS MATTER—READ ON . . .

Extensive research confirms that a child’s first five years of life lay the foundation for learning and
school success.

A WORK IN PROGRESS                                                                      FACTS & FIGURES
The development of a young child's brain takes years to                                 New brain scan technology
complete. Contrary to widely held beliefs, the brain is                                 dramatically shows the difference in
not fully developed at birth. In fact, a newborn's brain is                             brain growth between children from
about 25% of its approximate adult weight. By age 3, it                                 nurturing, stimulating environments
has grown dramatically. It is during these early years,                                 and those who have experienced
that young children establish patterns for life-long                                    isolation and deprivation. Children
learning.                                                                               who have little opportunity to play
                                                                                        or who are rarely touched have
Brain development is dependent on positive early                                        brains that are 20% to 30% smaller
experiences — strong relationships with parents and                                     than normal.
teachers, the opportunity to explore and experience new               —Time Magazine Special Report,
sights, sounds, smells, touch, and having basic needs                                 February 1997
met. Every experience helps children grow and thrive.
These experiences facilitate important connections, which are crucial to sensory, motor, emotional,
and cognitive brain development. “In other words, early experiences help determine brain structure,
thus shaping the way people learn, think, and behave for the rest of their lives.”1

INVESTING IN THE EARLY YEARS                                                            FACTS & FIGURES
In the last decade, the awareness of the importance of                                  Well-designed preschool
the early years has escalated in public support. Federal,                               programs can have positive social
state, and local governments and organizations are                                      effects (including lower crime
implementing policies and practices, which invest in the                                rates, higher employment, etc.),
early years and reform early care and education                                         yielding a payback of nearly $4 for
systems.                                                                                every $1 invested.
                                                                                                                — Rutgers University
In 1990, former President Bush and state Governors
established eight National Education Goals to improve learning and teaching. Goal One, “all children
will start school ready to learn,” clearly indicates school readiness is a means to improving
educational achievement for all students.

In 1997, the “I Am Your Child” public engagement campaign continued to bring the needs of our
youngest children to the forefront. States, like North Carolina with its Smart Start! Campaign, soon
followed with community-based public outreach efforts. Insert Colorado

This national, state, and local momentum built for the next four years until the U.S. Congress
significantly reformed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) with the "No Child Left
Behind Act of 2001," which included legislation and funding for early reading programs.
1
    The First Years Last Forever. The New Brain Research and Your Child’s Healthy Development. I Am Your Child Campaign.


A Guide to Achieve School Readiness                                                                                                    1
In Maryland, there is a history of investing in the early     FACTS & FIGURES
years. In 1999, the Maryland State Board of Education
                                                              Every day of a child’s life is an
adopted “Every Child Achieving: A Plan for Meeting the
                                                              opportunity to expand his
Needs of the Individual Learner,” which focused on two
                                                              horizons, brighten his future. And
strategies for improving student readiness. Namely,
                                                              the early years are, by far, the
improving and expanding child care and early education
                                                              most critical in determining every
programs, and marshalling family and community
                                                              success or failure that follows.
resources to prepare at-risk children for school success.
One year later, the Maryland State Board of Education and          — June Streckfus, Executive Director
the General Assembly developed a framework for investing                 Maryland Business Roundtable
resources and building an infrastructure to enhance early                                for Education
learning opportunities.

This framework — the Maryland Model for School Readiness (MMSR) — involves:
 Staff Development — workshops, training, and mentoring for teachers;
 Instruction — activities based on children’s strengths, interests and needs;
 Assessment — understanding what children know and are able to do.
 Communication among parents, early care providers, and teachers to support a young child’s efforts.
 Collaboration and Coordination among early care and education programs.

And, more recently, the 2002 Maryland legislature committed to significantly boosting spending on
public schools for the next six years with the passage of The Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools
Act (“Thornton Commission Legislation”). This legislation recognizes the importance of early learning
opportunities and includes a provision for mandatory full-day kindergarten (by School Year 2007) and
pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-old children living in poverty.

ON SCHOOL READINESS                                            FACTS & FIGURES
But, early experiences support more than brain                Quality early learning
development. Research indicates that high-quality early       experiences, such as preschool
learning opportunities can contribute to greater school       can help level the playing field
success.                                                      between children from low-
                                                              income families, who often lag
To do well in school, children need to be well rounded,       behind (sometimes by as much
with a variety of abilities, skills, knowledge, and           as a year-and-a-half), and their
experiences. According to many experts, children need to      middle-class peers. In fact, low-
be supported and nurtured in seven areas of child             income children attending
development or Domains of Learning:                           preschool are 15 percent less
 Social and Emotional Development,                           likely to repeat a grade, 11
 Physical Development,                                       percent less likely to be enrolled
 Language and Literacy,                                      in special education, and 11
 Cognition & General Knowledge in subjects such as:          percent more likely to finish high
     Mathematical Thinking,                                  school.
     Scientific Reasoning,                                                    — University of Wisconsin
     Social Studies, and
     The Arts                                                 .
2                                                                                                 Ready At Five
THE CHALLENGE

When a young child enters school, he needs to have certain physical, social, emotional, and language
skills to succeed. In Maryland, many of the 350,000 children under the age of five are in stimulating
learning environments—either at home or in the care of others—where they can develop these skills
and abilities. Unfortunately, many others are
not.                                                            FACTS & FIGURES
                                                      Percent of Maryland Children Entering School Ready to
In 1996, Starting Points in Maryland                             Succeed, School Year 2001-2002
documented that almost one-third of
                                                                         Full      Approaching     Developing
Maryland Kindergartners enter school
                                                   Composite             49 %      44 %            7%
seriously challenged by language, emotional        Social & Personal     55        35              9
and social maturity, and a lack of general         Language &            36        50              14
knowledge. Five years later, few gains have        Literacy
been made. The School Readiness Baseline           Physical              60        35              4
Information: School Year 2001-02 (compiled         Development
by the Maryland State Department of                Mathematical          40        47              13
Education) indicates 51 percent of children        Thinking
entering Kindergarten needed targeted or           Scientific Thinking   24        59              17
considerable support in order to do                Social Studies        32        55              13
kindergarten work successfully.                    The Arts              51        42              7

So, what are some of the underlying reasons that                           FACTS & FIGURES
children are not ready to succeed in school?
                                                                For too long there’s been a separation
1. Parents and early childhood program staff are often          between different parts of the early
   unaware of the skills and experiences young children         childhood community.       The public
   need to enter school ready to succeed.                       schools have traditionally been
2. Early care and education programs often work in a            somewhat separate from child care
   “silo” rather than in an integrated manner due to            and private pre-school or even from
   restricted funding streams and federal, state, and/or        families. If we are going to help all
   local–level mandates.                                        children be ready to learn, then we all
3. Elementary schools and early childhood programs are          need to work together.
   two distinct and separate systems with unaligned                      —Marylou Hyson, Associate Director
   curriculum, student expectations, and professional                             National Association for the
   development.                                                                  Education of Young Children
4. Limited communication between early childhood
   programs and elementary schools makes the
   transition between these two separate systems difficult.

Although some efforts are underway to alleviate these challenges, such as training on the Maryland
Model for School Readiness for a limited number of child care providers, Head Start staff, home
visiting staff, and other audiences, these challenges still persist.




A Guide to Achieve School Readiness                                                                             3
MEETING THE CHALLENGE

Survey after survey reveals that by stimulating and sustaining dialogue and collaboration between parents,
schools, and early childhood programs the quality and continuity of early educational experiences
improves. The Achieving School Readiness program promotes these strong connections.

ACHIEVING SCHOOL READINESS
In 1998, Ready At Five and its partners kicked off the       The Ready At Five Partnership
Achieving School Readiness (ASR) program. This              Ready At Five is a statewide coalition
unique and results-oriented model eases children’s          dedicated to improving the lives of
transition to kindergarten and improves their success in    children. Together, this unique
school by focusing on communication, curriculum             partnership promotes school
alignment, and joint professional development               readiness and works to ensure that all
opportunities. Specifically, the program aims to:           Maryland children enter school ready
                                                            to learn.
   Improve children’s initial readiness for school.
   Foster effective practices that encourage collaboration among a young child’s first teachers.
   Create high quality early learning environments for young children.

Begun as a pilot program in 5 school communities, the program has expanded to over 21 schools in
six jurisdictions, including Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, Carroll, and Prince
George’s Counties.

As part of this program, communities are engaged in long-term systemic efforts and specific activities
to improve children’s readiness for school. They are taking ACTion, BUILDING PUBLIC
AWARENESS, and COMMUNICATING and COLLABORATING.

GOOD FOR CHILDREN, GOOD FOR THE COMMUNITY
ASR benefits elementary schools, young children, early care providers and parents. Preliminary
evaluation results of the Achieving School Readiness program indicate these important benefits:
 Improves communication among the first teachers.
 Actively engages parents in their children’s early learning.
 Raises the social skills and language development of children.
 Increases the number of children in the “Full Readiness” category for kindergarten level work.
 Integrates early learning into the goals of k-12 education community.
 Provides smooth transitions between pre-school and public schools and home and school.
 Increases the number of young children registering for kindergarten in the spring.
 Develops lasting and effective partnerships with the community.



         To start an Achieving School Readiness program in your community, read on.




4                                                                                              Ready At Five
At-A-Glance: Strategies for Initiating an Achieving School Readiness Community

Strategy          What it Means            Benefit                           Sample Actions:
A:                State and local           Improves the current            1.   Gain Buy-in. For example, find a champion for your efforts, seek Local
Act               entities to take           early care and education             Management Board involvement, or make early learning a component of
                  ACTion and commit          system                               School Improvement Plans.
                  to young children.        Integrates early learning       2.   Revise Policies: Make early learning a component of the School
                                             into community strategic             Improvement Plan or align standards and curriculum among schools and
                                             plans.                               early childhood programs.
                                                                             3.   Create a Community Framework. For example, identify preschool
                                                                                  children and early care providers in your school community’s attendance
                                                                                  area or ask teachers to hold workshops for parents and early care
                                                                                  providers on the transition to kindergarten.
                                                                             4.   Tackle Systemic Reform: Establish an Early PTA /O at your local school,
                                                                                  hold a strategic planning forum, or facilitate specialized training on child
                                                                                  development.
B:                Public awareness          Promotes early learning a       1.   Identify preschool children and early care providers in your school
Build Public      and understanding on       state and/or local priority.         community’s attendance area through sibling lists
Awareness         the importance of         Improved understanding          2.   Disseminate Information on the early years through newsletters, letters to
                  quality early learning     the early years matter.              the editor, presentations, or traditional advertising, or summer activity
                  experiences.              Gains knowledge of the               packets.
                                             skills and experiences          3.   Hold Special Events. Host school readiness fairs, workshops, or
                                             young children need to               other training sessions aimed at a young child’s first teachers.
                                             enter school ready to           4.   Initiate a Public Outreach Campaign. Distribute brochures, use the
                                             succeed.                             public engagement materials, and advertise on the importance early
                                                                                  kindergarten registration.
C:                Communication             Builds strong                   1.   Engage Key Partners and Utilize Partner Strengths, including
Communicate       and collaboration          connections between                  elementary school staff, early care providers, parents, libraries,
and Collaborate   among and with a           the first three teachers.            community colleges and universities, service providers, and others.
                  young child’s first       Actively engages                2.   Facilitate and Encourage Collaboration. Encourage reciprocal
                  teachers—parents,          parents in their                     visits and joint professional development opportunities for schools and
                  early care and             children’s learning.                 early childhood programs.
                  education                 Aligns curriculum and
                  professionals and          activities for children birth
                  elementary school          to five.
                  staff.                    Improves the quality of
                                             early learning
                                             experiences.
                                            Eases transitions for
                                             children between the
                                             home, preschool and
                                             elementary school.
                                            Improves the
                                             educational
                                             achievements of young
                                             children.




A Guide to Achieve School Readiness                                                                                                                     5
BEFORE YOU BEGIN

ASR can make a difference for young children in your                     FACTS & FIGURES
community. Starting a program isn’t hard. You don’t need
                                                                         This initiative is a ‘win-win’ situation
a lot of training. And, it doesn’t take a lot of money. In
                                                                         for everyone. All benefit —
fact, it is easy as A! B! C! But, it does take time.
                                                                         parents, children, schools, and the
                                                                         community.
ASR is not one or two programs focused on young
children or parents, rather it promotes systemic, long-term
                                                                                       — Early Learning Supervisor
efforts in a school community2 in three strategic areas —                                   Prince George’s County
taking ACTion, BUILDING PUBLIC AWARENESS, and
COMMUNICATING and COLLABORATING.

KEY QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
Before you begin, we strongly recommend you undertake a strategic planning process—a framework
for taking action. Start by answering some important questions:

What is the goal of your effort?

    The ultimate goal of an ASR program is to increase the number of children entering school ready
    to succeed. However, this can take on many forms. Think about your specific school community.
    What are your needs? What do you want to accomplish? What strategy(s) will you work on?

What is your target population?

    An ASR program targets a young child’s (birth to age five) first teachers — parents, caregivers,
    and teachers—and other community resources, such as public libraries, churches, etc. However,
    the size of an ASR school community can vary.

    Think about your specific school community. Will you focus your efforts at a specific school?
    Cluster of schools? Jurisdiction? Whom will you serve . . . parents, early care providers,
    kindergarten teachers, or others in the community? When selecting your school community, be
    sure to analyze pertinent data to understand the needs of children and families in the specific
    community.

What will be your plan of action?

    Within each of three strategies for initiating an ASR community, there are a variety of different
    activities. Before you commit to one or several activities, get to know your community. Be sure to
    examine your community’s strengths, weaknesses, barriers, resources, and history. What has
    worked in the past? What best practices can you replicate? What needs to be done? What is your
    timeline? Develop a clear and concise plan of action.


2
 A School Community is defined as the catchment, area feeder community or families with young children living in a
geographic area who will attend a specific elementary school.

6                                                                                                           Ready At Five
Who will you partner with?

    Educators, early care professionals, parents and community organizations, are all natural allies for
    an ASR program. Consider your past efforts to collaborate. What can you learn from these
    experiences? Who did you work with? Whom else can you engage? Who do you have good
    working relationships with? What other organizations share this specific concern? How can you
    build relationships with these organizations or individuals? Who will serve as the champion for this
    effort? Remember to gain commitment from all organizations and clearly define the roles and
    responsibilities of each partner organization.

How will you communicate your efforts?

    It is essential to communicate with the public about your efforts. It helps focus attention and
    increases involvement. Think about your current communication with parents and the broader
    community. How can this be improved?

How will you measure your results?

    Periodically, assess the progress of your work and explore what changes need to be made in your
    ASR program to sustain the progress. This will encourage the improvement of services, help with
    fundraising, provide a mechanism for accountability, enhance public awareness efforts, and
    ensure continuous improvement of your efforts. More importantly, it will helps you answer the
    question, “How will we know a result if we achieved it?”

    Think about how you can measure your results and/or assess your impact. What effect will your
    effort have? What data will you need to collect? Be sure to collect quantitative and qualitative
    data. (HINT: You may want to review the Maryland Model for School Readiness (MMSR) data,
    other relevant information being collected at the school level including: kindergarten enrollment
    information, use of transition documents, involvement of parents in school programming,
    professional development opportunities, or surveys). What is the synergy between efforts?

    And, remember to celebrate your accomplishments!

RESOURCES
For more in-depth strategic planning assistance, use the following resource, available on the Ready
At Five Web site, www.readyatfive.org:

   School Readiness in Your Community: A Community Guide for Strategic Planning.



                                Now you are ready to begin!
    The next several pages provide you with a look at three strategies for starting an ASR
program. Tips on getting started, benefits, descriptions of ASR communities at work, and key
                        resources will also be described. Read On!

A Guide to Achieve School Readiness                                                                   7
STRATEGY A: ACT

WHAT IT MEANS                                                 FACTS & FIGURES
Every community has the power to effect change in a           Because we are now working in
unique way. But, in order to effect change, one must take     tandem with the child care
ACTion.                                                       community which serves the young
                                                              children who will be entering my
Taking action requires strong leadership to make a deep       school, I am fortunate to be invited
commitment to altering the current infrastructure and         to visit the local child care centers.
governance to improve the lives of young children. This       Wonderful conversations and a
may involve revising current policies in order to stay on     shared vision about learning
top of your community’s needs.                                readiness and school readiness
                                                              have evolved.
Before any action is taken, you may want to obtain a                            — Assistant Principal
kindergarten profile by distributing surveys, reviewing the                           Carroll County
most current school readiness data, and touring local
facilities.

BENEFITS
Children, families, preschool and elementary schools, and communities all gain when they Act to
improve school readiness. In fact, it:
    Improves the current early care and education system.
    Integrates early learning into community strategic plans.

IT WORKS: COMMUNITIES IN ACTION

In Anne Arundel County, the school principal at Belvedere Elementary School, is a true champion for
early learning. Recognizing that initiating an ASR school community has many tangible results,
including raising the school’s Maryland Model for School Readiness scores, the principal decided to
take action. To do so, he engaged a number of organizations, including 5 large preschools and the
community college, to create a catalog of “local experts” on young children. With the help of these
experts and a series of parent and caregiver surveys, the ASR school community developed a
kindergarten population profile. This profile shaped and directed all future efforts and was
instrumental in developing resources for parents of young children, including a monthly ASR
newsletter and a resource corner with information for parents of young children.

After achieving substantial buy-in from the community, the Harford County ASR community decided
one way to improve school readiness was to revise its policies. With a detailed community needs
assessment in hand, select elementary schools are currently working to align their standards and
curriculum with local child care programs.




8                                                                                           Ready At Five
GETTING STARTED

1. Gain Buy-In                                                  FACTS & FIGURES
    Find a champion for your program!                          The ASR program has brought
    Seek Local Management Boards (LMB)                         together the preschool programs
      involvement. Your LMB may have selected                   that serve the parents and children
      “children entering school ready to learn” as a top        of our school and the neighboring
      priority. If so, you are working toward the same          schools. This fosters a dialogue
      goal. Even if the LMB has selected other priorities,      and promotes readiness for school
      it is still a powerful partner that can bring a wealth    for all children.
      of resources to the program.                                                      — Bob Kanach
    Work in conjunction with the School Improvement                                           Principal
                                                                                   Anne Arundel County
      Team to include early learning as a component of
      School Improvement Plans.
    Form an Achieving School Readiness Advisory Council, which provides structure and
      guidance for the initiative. The Council should encompass a wide array of community
      partners. This is your opportunity to ask other organizations to join your efforts to improve early
      care and education for children.

2. Revise Policies to Improve School Readiness
    Incorporate early learning and achieving school readiness as a school priority through the
     School Improvement Plan. This reinforces and institutionalizes ASR activities within the school.
    Align standards and curriculum among elementary schools and childcare programs serving
     young children.
    Review and enhance current kindergarten transition processes.
    Provide release time for school staff to visit child care centers, family providers, Family Support
     Centers, Child Care Resource Centers, Head Start Programs, or Judy Centers.

3. Create a Community Framework
    Identify preschool children and early care providers in your school community’s attendance
      area. (Hint! One easy way is to develop a Sibling List!)
    Create a catalog of local experts on young children.
    Create an early childhood cluster comprised of elementary schools, early childhood programs,
      Even Start, Head Start, other programs, and parents of young children.
    Ask kindergarten teachers to hold workshops for parents and child care providers.

4. Tackle Systemic Reform
    Establish an Early Parent Teacher Association at your local school.
    Host a strategic planning forum in your community.
    Conduct roundtables on issues affecting early childhood development in your community.
    Develop the capacity of higher education institutions in the community to offer courses in
      infant/ toddler care and supervision.
    Facilitate specialized training on child development and family support for early care providers.
    Expand the supply of quality early care through direct investments and new resource
      allocations.

A Guide to Achieve School Readiness                                                                  9
USEFUL RESOURCES

For additional information and tools to assist you in taking ACTion, see the following resources,
available on the Ready At Five Web site,
www.readyatfive.org:

        A Guide to the Development of an Achieving School Readiness Advisory Council. This guide
         provides the ins-and-outs of creating an Advisory Council.

        Achieving School Readiness Surveys. Gain important insights on the needs of your ASR
         school community. Parent, early care and education provider, and community surveys are
         available for customization and distribution.

        Effective Transition Policies. Examples of effective practices that promote smooth transitions
         for young children between home, early care environments, and public schools.




10                                                                                             Ready At Five
STRATEGY B: BUILD PUBLIC AWARENESS

WHAT IT MEANS
When we hear the term “public awareness,” we often think of marketing campaigns. While some ASR
programs may choose this form of public awareness, other sites may prefer to keep the spotlight on
the early years using other less costly means of communicating with the pubic.

Make the public aware of the importance of the early years and provide information on what they can
do to improve a young child’s readiness for school through events, newsletters, community
celebrations, or press/data releases. Be creative in getting your message out!

Don’t forget to repeat the message. Continuously mention ASR and strategies for improving school
readiness at staff meetings, professional development sessions, back-to-school nights, kindergarten
round-up, PTA/PTO meetings, school assemblies, school improvement meetings, and in the local
paper.

Whatever your method of public outreach, it is vital to gaining public support.

BENEFITS
Children, families, preschool and elementary schools, and communities all gain when we raise public
awareness. In fact it:
    Promotes early learning as a state and/or local priority.
    Increases the public’s knowledge of the skills and experiences young children need to enter
       school ready to succeed.
    Provides parents and caregivers with tools on how to make the most of early learning
       experiences.

GETTING STARTED
1. Identify Preschool Children, Parents, and Caregivers in your School Community’s
   Attendance Area.
    Develop a preschool Sibling List to facilitate communication with the parents of the birth
      through five population.
    Develop a list of center-based and family care provides.

2. Disseminate Information on the Importance of a Child’s Early Years to Parents and
   Educators of Young Children.
    Establish a lending library of games, activities, books, pamphlets, brochures and other
      references.
    Distribute information packets on educational topics and other resources.
    Distribute Summer Activity Packets and other materials containing early learning tips,
      activities, and strategies.




A Guide to Achieve School Readiness                                                               11
IT: WORKS: COMMUNITIES IN ACTION

In Carroll County, over 140 early care providers and parents will tell you there is something very
different about the annual Bright Starts School Readiness Fair. For one thing, Little People Child
Care provides day care for children so that parents can attend the full day event. And, licensed
providers can receive continuing education credits for their participation. But, beyond these
accommodations, there is a distinct energy about the event; it is the energy of people learning. At this
special event aimed at raising public awareness, workshops focus on activities for improving school
readiness, childhood development, early learning and curriculum development, and effective
discipline. As Chris Sparr, Co-chair of the Achieving School Readiness initiative in Carroll County and
Assistant Principal of William Winchester Elementary, observes, “this event symbolizes the essence
of our work with the first three caregivers of a young child. When the public schools collaborate with
parents and early care and education professionals we are instilling the basic skills all children need
to be successful in school.”

In Prince George’s County, Achieving School Readiness programs in Beacon Heights, Barnaby
Manor, and Overlook Elementary Schools are reaching out to parents of children, age 0-4, through a
series of community events and programs. These schools are partnering with local public libraries to
host Bedtime Story hours and “Parents in Print” and “Read to Me” workshops, which provide parents
with information and tips on promoting language development in their young children. At an annual
Baby Olympics, physical education teachers help parents promote the physical and motor
development of their children.

Beyond these school- and center- based activities, parents can access a wide array of school
readiness tools and resources through lending libraries and “Make &Take” programs. Recognizing
the importance of ongoing communication, many of the ASR communities are distributing monthly
newsletters and calendars. And, as a method of targeting rising kindergartners, schools are
distributing Summer Activity packets. But, public awareness efforts are not just focused on print
materials. Kindergarten teachers produced take-home videos for parents demonstrating how to take
“picture walks” with their youngsters.

3. Hold Special Events
    Provide monthly opportunities and extend invitations to parents to visit the school, including
      story hours, assemblies, workshops, seminars, training sessions, playgroup activities, tours, or
      other community events. (Hint: Tailor your events by surveying parents on potential topics and
      activities!)
    Host a School Readiness Fair, designed to facilitate early kindergarten registrations and
      provide parents with information about early learning.




12                                                                                           Ready At Five
4. Initiate Public Outreach Campaigns
    Place articles on early learning in school and PTA newsletters
    Distribute a special “preschool newsletter” for families with young children
    Write a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper
    Ask local businesses to distribute information, articles, and fact sheets on early learning to
       their employees. (Hint! Review the pre-designed public engagement materials!)
    Distribute brochures on the Maryland Model for School Readiness and the Work Sampling
       System.
    Advertise the importance of early kindergarten registration.

USEFUL RESOURCES
For additional information and tools to help your raise Public Awareness, see the following resources,
available on the Ready At Five Web site, www.readyatfive.org:
    Achieving School Readiness Activity Calendar. This calendar provides daily activities for
       infants, toddlers and preschoolers to improve school readiness.
    Achieving School Readiness Monthly Newsletter. Download this newsletter each month and
       share important school readiness information and activities with parents and other community
       stakeholders through monthly newsletters! Customize or add the Achieving School Readiness
       Calendar to the back of each newsletter for an outstanding communication tool!
    Developing Siblings Lists. Increase your ability to conduct community outreach with parents of
       children birth to age 5 by creating sibling lists.
    Fun and Learning! Activity Sheets. These fact sheets provide developmentally appropriate
       activities with suggested toys and books for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
    Healthy Children: Parents Matter. Approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Maryland
       Chapter, this publication focuses on promoting healthy growth and development of children,
       including access to health care, immunizations, nutrition, mental health, and safety.
    Parents Matter: Maryland Model for School Readiness. Easy to read brochure for parents on
       the Maryland Model for School Readiness.
    Parents Matter (2001). This unique publication offers parents tips and suggestions on the
       seven Domains of Learning. This publication is also available in Spanish.
    Parents Matter Cards. Parents play an important role in improving the school readiness of
       young children. These cards provide parents with essential information and tips on Talking To
       Your Child and Reading with Your Child (also available in Spanish).
    Public Awareness Materials. Promote the importance of School Readiness. Developed by the
       Maryland Business Roundtable for Education, these pre-designed messages enable you to
       communicate with parents, employees, policy makers, and the press on the early years.
       Available in four different formats.
    Summer Activity Packet. Provide parents with summer activities aimed at improving soon-to-be
       kindergartners readiness for school!




A Guide to Achieve School Readiness                                                               13
STRATEGY C: COMMUNICATE AND COLLABORATE

WHAT IT MEANS
Educators, early care and education professionals,             FACTS & FIGURES
parents and community stakeholders are natural allies          What happens when an ASR
and share common goals regarding young children.               program starts?
Each plays an important role in ensuring that children                  Communication!
are ready for school.
                                                               What happens when schools,
Engage as many individuals and groups — they all bring         preschools and child care centers
unique strengths and resources — as possible with the          communicate?
program. Coordinating with other programs provides                        Awareness!
maximize impact. Recruit individuals initially and then                     Respect!
focus on organizations.                                                    Readiness!
All partners must work together to make the most of the        ASR is a good thing!
early years. An ASR program can serve as the                                     — Preschool Director
springboard to stimulate and sustain dialogue and                                     Harford County
opportunities for collaboration.

Collaboration cultivates community-wide communication and improves the quality and continuity of
early educational experiences. And, it more effectively educates, empowers and engages parents in
their children’s early education.

BENEFITS
Children, families, preschool and elementary schools,          FACTS & FIGURES
and communities all gain when they support one another
and when they acknowledge the important role each              As a parent, I used to think I
plays in the life of a young child. In fact it:                wouldn’t be involved with the public
                                                               school until my son went to
                                                               kindergarten. Now, I understand
        Builds strong connections between the first three
                                                               that early and ongoing
         teachers.
                                                               communication between my son’s
        Actively engages parents in their children’s
                                                               preschool, elementary school and
         learning.
                                                               myself, is vital to my son’s success
        Aligns curriculum and activities for children birth   when he enters school.
         to five.                                                                         — Parent
        Improves the quality of early learning                                      Baltimore City
         experiences.
        Eases transitions for children between the home, preschool and elementary school.
        Improves the educational achievements of young children




14                                                                                             Ready At Five
IT: WORKS: COMMUNITIES IN ACTION

The Campfield Early Childhood and Learning Center in Baltimore County, the newest ASR
community, serves young children from five local school communities. Using its status and resources
as a Judy Center began using some successful techniques to reach young children and families. To
that end, they created a “Siblings List” through outreach efforts to the pre K and kindergarten classes.
An ASR flyer is now available through community programs and facilities (libraries, churches,
Departments of Social Services, etc) and a new School Readiness Fair showcases the services of
Campfield and the Judy Center. These techniques engage parents of young children and familiarize
them with the resources and services Campfield has to offer. Ready At Five materials, including
Parents Matter, the “Ready To Learn” video, the “School Readiness Activity Calendar,” and “Summer
Activities Packet,” further enhance the outreach and resources for parents.

In the Cherry Hill neighborhood of Baltimore City, a new method of collaboration has emerged. This
ASR community which is comprised of six ASR Community Councils in six elementary schools,
established and actively engages a wide array of “community collaborators” to get the message out
about the importance of early learning. Its many community partners, two of whom include the Cherry
Hill Branch of the Pratt Library and Harbor Hospital, are vital to the success of the ASR efforts and
the community outreach. And, Parent/Family Outreach liaisons actively recruit parents with young
children to participate in Baby Brigade events, Donuts for Dad programs, Back-to School breakfasts
and Bed Time Story Times led by pre-k staff.


Getting Started
1. Engage Key Partners and Utilize Partner Strengths, including:
    Elementary School Staff, which frequently includes principals, assistant principals, teachers,
     early childhood coordinators, reading specialists, family outreach staff, and/or members of the
     School Improvement Team.
    Early Care and Education Representatives. County Child Care Resource and Referral Centers
     (CCRC), Regional Child Care Licensing Offices and Head Start, Pre-K, and family- and center-
     based programs in the school community. These organizations may offer training opportunities
     or can assist in identifying family- and center-based child care programs.
    Parents.
    Libraries offer an abundance of programs and a variety of services for young children and
     families.
    Service Providers, including hospitals, home visiting programs, and other providers who have
     an active presence in the community and see the “faces” of the community residents. These
     organizations can disseminate information, host meetings, and bring both a service and
     business perspective.
    Faith Community is integral to community life and provides a channel of communication to their
     members.
    Community Colleges and Universities provide courses for parents and professional
     development opportunities for pre-school and elementary school staff.


A Guide to Achieve School Readiness                                                                15
        Community Individuals and Organizations. Civic, social, and neighborhood groups and
         business leaders, many who are also parents, are often the “eyes” and “ears” in the
         community, can offer meeting space, resources (sometimes financial) and are able to
         advertise activities. Also, don’t forget senior citizens who offer a lifetime of invaluable
         experiences and are vibrant community partners.

2. Facilitate and Encourage Collaboration.
    Provide opportunities for young children to visit the school and participate in activities,
      including a summer camp for rising Kindergartners.
    Institute reciprocal visits between child care and kindergarten staff. Be sure to provide release
      time for school staff to visit child care centers and homes.
    Encourage kindergarten teachers to hold training sessions for parents and child care
      providers.
    Hold a local early childhood conference for child care providers and at-home parents.
    Conduct roundtables on issues affecting early childhood development.
    Establish an exchange program between school staff and childcare providers, including
      newsletters, field trips and “exchange days.”
    Invite early care and education providers to pre-service and in-service professional
      development opportunities at the public school.
    Encourage kindergarten teachers to share their curriculum and assist early care providers in
      aligning their curriculum with kindergarten curriculum and expectations. You may want to
      include providers in curriculum writing activities.

USEFUL RESOURCES
For additional information and tools to help you Communicate and Collaborate, see the following
resources, available on the Ready At Five Web site, www.readyatfive.org:

        Achieving School Readiness: Creating Connections Curriculum (2000). Created in conjunction
         with Anne Arundel Community College, this unique curriculum is designed for a young child’s
         first three caregivers — parents, early childhood professionals, and elementary school staff.
         Modules include: early learning process, domains of learning, how young children learn, and
         transitions. This curriculum also includes the supplement, Continuity in Early Childhood: A
         Framework for Home, School, and Community Linkages.

        Communicating with Parents. Tips on how to begin the dialogue between elementary school
         staff, early care and educational professionals, and other community resources.




16                                                                                                Ready At Five
RESOURCES

WEB SITE
This site (www.readyatfive.org) features counties and schools currently leading Achieving School
Readiness programs; displays key early childhood data and research; and provides useful early
learning tools, resources, and up-to-date links.

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
To improve the quality and continuity of care and education in children birth through five, Ready At
Five offers a number of opportunities that heighten the dialogue among caregivers, including an Early
Childhood LISTSERV, school readiness conferences and forums, and quarterly symposiums. In
addition, Ready At Five provides technical assistance on a fee-for-service basis to school
communities.

ANALYSIS AND IMPACT ASSESSMENT
Ready At Five in conjunction with Towson University is assessing the progress, lessons learned, and
measuring the impact of this initiative on children’s school readiness.

PUBLICATIONS AND RESOURCES FOR PARENTS
Ready At Five has a number of publications for parents and caregivers, including Parents Matter,
Healthy Children—Parents Matter, Activity Boxes on each Domain of Learning, and various early
learning tools aimed at promoting healthy growth and development of children through tips and
activities. Many publications are also available in Spanish.

CURRICULA
Two unique curricula, Channeling Young Children Away from Media Violence and Creating
Connections, are available to early childhood educators enrolled in adult education courses at local
community colleges and other training venues.




A Guide to Achieve School Readiness                                                             17
ABOUT READY AT FIVE

Since it was charted in 1992, Ready At Five, a powerful voice for young children, has been firmly
committed to increasing the number children entering school ready to succeed. As a statewide
public/private partnership, Ready At Five coalesces and leverages community leadership to:

        Improve the educational experiences of children birth to age five;
        Assist communities in providing support to families with children birth to five; and
        Educate a child’s first three teachers — parents, early care and education professionals and
         elementary school staff.


SUPPORTERS

The Achieving School Readiness program is targeted at local communities—but Ready At Five is
also collaborating with community leaders at the state level to ensure that all Maryland children birth
through five are prepared to enter school ready to succeed.

     Abilities Network                                       Maryland Parent Teachers Association
     Advocates for Children and Youth, Inc.                  Maryland Public Television
     Governor’s Office of Children, Youth and Families       Maryland State Department of Education
     Interages, Inc.                                         Maryland State Department of Health and
     Johns Hopkins Center for Reading Excellence              Mental Hygiene
     Maryland AARP                                           Maryland State Department of Human
     Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals     Resources
     Maryland Association of Public Library Administrators   National Child Care Information Center
     Maryland Business Roundtable for Education, Inc.        United Seniors of Maryland
     Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of             United Way of Central Maryland
       Pediatrics                                            University of Maryland—Covering Kids
     Maryland Committee for Children, Inc
     Maryland Head Start Association



FOR MORE INFORMATION about Achieving School Readiness and how to begin a program
in your school, please contact:




                                         111 S. Calvert Street, Suite 1720
                                              Baltimore, MD 21202
                                              Phone 410.727.6290
                                                  Fax 410.727.
                                               Email ra5@mbrt.org
                                          Web site www.readyatfive.org




18                                                                                                     Ready At Five

				
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