Every Student Succeeds Act: Early Childhood Education

This is part of a series of blog posts by the KDP Public Policy Committee that examine the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a law that outlines the federal government’s role in education. The purpose of the series is to educate KDP members about this important law and its impact on their work as educators.

The ESSA Act requires documentation of “the strategies that the school will be implementing to address school needs, including a description of how such strategies will . . . address the needs of all children in the school, but particularly the needs of those at risk of not meeting the challenging State academic standards, through activities which may include . . . strategies for assisting preschool children in the transition from early childhood education programs to local elementary school programs” (pp. 68–69).

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” –Benjamin Franklin

The Every Student Succeeds Act reaffirms the country’s commitment to young learners. Although some research indicates that the kindergarten readiness achievement gap is lessening between children from low- and high-income families, the importance of preparing preschoolers for kindergarten remains a top priority for teachers and parents across the nation. ESSA acknowledges the need for high-quality preschool programs, outlines funding allotments and guidelines, and highlights the benefit of a smooth transition for preschoolers into kindergarten. Read more about the Early Learning Initiatives here.

According to ESSA Section 1114, if Title I funds are used to support preschool programs, then the school district plans must include a description of how the funding is used, specifically addressing how the district supports the transition from preschool to kindergarten. Also, the preschool program and/or services must comply with the performance standards laid out in the Head Start Act.

Vertical Alignment and Collaboration

Vertical alignment is an idea that most educators are familiar with: First-grade teachers share expectations with kindergarten teachers, second-grade teachers discuss what students should know by August with first-grade teachers, and so on. ESSA requires communication and collaboration between preschool programs and the school district. The focus on improving kindergarten readiness and supporting the preschool to kindergarten transition is a key point of the legislation. The idea is multi-faceted and holds many potential benefits, including:

  • Identifying and minimizing gaps in student learning by increasing communication between preschool and kindergarten teachers.
  • Increasing parent involvement and advocacy for their child by helping them to understand the transition.
  • Supporting students’ academic, emotional, and social needs as they transition.

Kindergarten Transition

The transition into kindergarten can be a tough one for children, parents, and sometimes teachers. Students enter kindergarten with so many varied experiences—some have been in daycare and preschool their whole life, and some have never been separated from a parent or family member. Many enter with knowledge of the alphabet and numbers, but there are also children who have never had any instruction or exposure to academic subjects. Regardless of background experiences, even simply learning to line up and sit down when asked can be a struggle.

Here are some ways to support the transition for students into kindergarten:

  • Connect preschool families with free book programs (like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Program or visit Reading Rockets for more options) to engage kids with books.
  • Set up transition meetings with the preschool and kindergarten teachers, and support staff like counselors and nurses, to answer questions and establish expectations for families.
  • Establish a way for student preschool records to precede the student, giving the kindergarten teacher a running start at knowing academic (and sometimes social) needs before the school year begins.
  • Provide training for preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, and support personnel on social and emotional needs specific to this transition.
  • Arrange kindergarten “play dates” over the summer for incoming kindergarteners and families to meet teachers, administration, support staff, and other kindergarteners.
  • Partner with local businesses and foundations to put together summer learning kits with crayons, paper, books, and other school supplies for the incoming kindergarteners to use over the summer.
  • Write and distribute a Tips for Families packet with helpful hints for parents and family members as they support their child through this transition.

Call to Action

Join this week’s ESSA discussion on KDP Global about these questions:

  • What do you or your district staff do to support the preschool to kindergarten transition?
  • In your experience, what are other potential benefits of supporting this transition?

Resources

Bassok, D., Finch, J. E., Lee, R., Reardon, S. F., & Waldfogel, J. (2016). Socioeconomic gaps in early childhood experiences: 1998 to 2010. AERA Open, 2(3), 1–22.

Reardon, S. F., & Portilla, X. A. (2016). Recent trends in income, racial, and ethnic school readiness gaps at kindergarten entry. AERA Open, 2(3), 1–18.

Ridzi, F., Sylvia, M., Qiao, X., & Craig, J. (2017). The Imagination Library Program and kindergarten readiness: Evaluating the impact of monthly book distribution. Journal of Applied Social Science, 11(1), 11–24.

Dr. Caroline Courter, NBCT, is a Curriculum Specialist at Age of Learning, Inc. and an adjunct faculty member in the Watson College of Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a member of the Kappa Delta Pi Policy Committee.

 

Operation Literacy Engaging Everyone

We don’t know his name, or that of his older sister, but we were still moved when he exclaimed, “I love Dr. Seuss! Daddy can I take this one?”

chapman-literacy1We glanced at one another excitedly as the boy clumsily pulled the Seuss work out of the book station we had just inaugurated. His sister found one, too, and was proud to be like her brother, book held high above her head.

Smiling, his father asked him which books he was going to bring back for other kids to take.

As they walked away hand in hand, the boy, his sister, and their father continued their conversation about books, and about reading. We were filled with a sense of gratitude for a moment that brought our vision of free neighborhood book stations to life.

These seemingly unplanned moments where learning connects families, communities, and each of us to a deeper self are what we live for as educators and future educators.

This year’s Literacy Alive! project brought many such moments to the members of Chapman’s Chi Beta Chapter.

Each year, the chapters of Kappa Delta Pi connect around a national literacy campaign called Literacy Alive! to “create programs and events in their communities that bring empowering literacy skills to their participants.” This year, more than 150 projects were submitted nationally, adding up to 57,052 people served and 44,625 books collected for distribution. As a chapter, Chi Beta was recognized for its partnership with a local initiative: Operation Literacy Engaging Everyone (Operation L.E.E.) in Anaheim, California.

Operation L.E.E.’s Facebook page reads, “We are a group of community members out to promote literacy and spread the love of reading in our community by providing book stations with free books.” The book stations are located at various homes and businesses in Anaheim, and represent a true community effort. A vision of local educators, the book stations are filled with donated books that anyone can borrow or take or donate. Operation L.E.E. started with five book stations and hopes to increase that number throughout Anaheim and in other interested cities.

chapman-literacy2Our first adventure with Operation L.E.E. was at the South Junior High School Service Day, where Chapman’s KDP members were tutored in making book stations by students. The amazing woodshop teacher, Chapman alumnus Matthew Bidwell, guided us around the classroom while seventh and eighth graders made assistants of us and demonstrated their mastery of carpentry. It was a fun and exciting day of building book stations from instructions, wood, and know-how.

As future educators, we talked about how it reminded us that our students will always be our greatest teachers, and that our classrooms can be spaces for doing good.

chapman-literacy3We also helped sort more than 500 donated books, prompting a recognition of our community’s generosity and spirit.

As book donations rolled in they were collected at the home of Operation L.E.E. leader, Juan Alvarez. A local educator and parent, Juan welcomed a collaboration with Chapman, and KDP members helped distribute books to book stations around Anaheim. Juan also welcomed us to his home, where we hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Operation L.E.E. at the location of the first official book station.

chapman-literacy4Here, Operation L.E.E. was presented with congressional recognition from Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, and the book stations officially went live!

In recognition of the success of Operation L.E.E., KDP awarded Chapman’s Chi Beta Chapter with a Silver Award.

chapman-literacy5As the project continues to grow, you can help by donating books, providing funds or materials to build more book stations, or volunteering to host a book station at your home or business (contact operationleeoc@gmail.com).

It was exciting for us to help support local educators who are moving beyond their classrooms to make an even greater impact in their community. And we were able to practice engaged citizenship by helping local educators bring a model program into fruition.

In addition to strengthening our relationship with one of our partner districts in Anaheim, we also developed new partnerships with other collaborating organizations such as Los Amigos de Orange County and the Anaheim Public Library.

chapman-literacy6Toward the end of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, we had our serendipitous visitors, our first book station patrons, and they knew exactly what to do. For us, it was like watching from a distance—watching our efforts and those of the community sprout into an opportunity.

For the father and his children, it was a seemingly spontaneous moment to talk about reading.

But we saw meaning in our project and could envision many such moments happening at this book station and at others around the city. Operation L.E.E. had come to life, and Chapman’s Kappa Delta Pi chapter helped make it happen.

Guest author Anat Herzog is an educator who has a deep love for her students and their families. She is a doctoral candidate at Chapman University and Literacy Alive! Coordinator for the Chi Beta Chapter of KDP. Her eventual goal is to open a school based on the pedagogical principles of John Dewey and Paulo Freire.

Today’s Math Fact

Katie Heath is Northeast Regional Chapter Coordinator at Kappa Delta Pi.

Today's Math FactIt’s no question that math facts must be mastered as a foundation for most mathematical principles. Here’s a math fact you may not be familiar with:

Kappa Delta Pi supports our practicing teachers through the Literacy Alive! Professional Member Division by providing stipends to teachers who host literacy projects in their school or community.

Last year, through the partnership with educators like you, the Literacy Alive! Professional Member Division impacted more than 1,700 students and 2,900 parents across seven states. We are hoping to expand this influence this year and are currently accepting stipend requests.

For more information and to submit your Professional Member Stipend Request form, visit the KDP website.

What’s the Relevance of Handwriting Today?

Kathy LaPorte is teacher and calligrapher in Indianapolis. She is the official Kappa Delta Pi calligrapher. In honor of National Handwriting Day (celebrated Jan. 23, the birthday of John Hancock), she offered her thoughts on the art form.

Calligraphy--KDP

LaPorte is the official calligrapher for KDP and works on charters, like this one for Alpha Zeta Delta chapter.

As I sit here with a pencil in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, I am trying to convince myself of the necessity of using handwriting as a form of communication. And, while I am passionate and enthusiastic about the fading art of handwriting, I know that the digital age has taken over its usefulness. Is this a good thing, a bad thing, or a wait-and-see thing?

For 33 years, I taught both manuscript printing and cursive writing to elementary school children. For some, this was enjoyable. For others, not so much. However, for everyone, handwritten communication was a necessity.

Even though efficiency has taken over our fast paced lives, I think there is a legacy that handwriting can offer. The warmth and personality that comes from seeing the product of someone’s hand is invaluable. It is the extension of a real person, unique and fascinating. It reflects thoughts that, once on paper, cannot be easily deleted. It causes the writer to reflect, to daydream and to let ideas gel. These are important qualities for creativity.

Handwriting is an art and a valuable part of our history. It is a relic for future generations to enjoy.

Treat yourself to a good pen, some high quality paper and write about your most cherished moments. You will be making a timeless contribution both to yourself and to others.

Tau Omega Chapter Holiday Book Exchange

B. Rose Lyons is president of Tau Omega Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi at Saint Joseph’s University.

BookExchange2Each December, Tau Omega Chapter at Saint Joseph’s University hosts a Holiday Book Exchange to assist its members in the creation of their future classroom libraries. Members place their names and certification areas into a hat during the November general meeting and pull another member’s name from the hat at random.

Instead of buying a generic gift, members buy a book relevant to the certification area of their chosen person, so that it can be used in a future classroom library. Many members choose specific books for sentimental value, such as a childhood favorite, while others choose books they feel a classroom library would be incomplete without.

The Holiday Book Exchange and party replaces the December general meeting and has consistently proven to be a great success. This night gives KDP members the opportunity to bond during the holiday season through baked goods, conversation, and a love of books.

Brooklyn College Chapter Hosts Boro-wide Professional Conference

Francine Canin is a Reading Teacher at I.S. 238: The Susan B. Anthony Academy in Hollis, Queens. A former Chapter President and Literacy Alive Coordinator, Francine is currently serving as Membership Vice President at Brooklyn College.

On November 7, Eta Theta/Brooklyn College, along with the Brooklyn Reading Council, co-hosted the 34th annual Brooklyn Boro-wide Professional Conference. Educators, a day of workshops and professional networking. The event opened with remarks from Brooklyn College School of Education Dean April Bedford, whose message of “Bring the joy back to reading” resonated with educators.

Jason Leinwand explains the relationship between Stop-Motion Animation and Literacy to a group of educators at the conference while Dr. Tova Ackerman, Director of Puppetry in Practice at Brooklyn College

Jason Leinwand explains the relationship between Stop-Motion Animation and Literacy while Dr. Tova Ackerman, Director of Puppetry in Practice at Brooklyn College

Topics included Bullying, Reading in the Content Areas, Encouraging Creativity and Thinking Skills, Understanding the Data, Drama in Reading Instruction, Forging Relationships with Parents, an introduction to ELL topics, and more. Presenters included principals, teachers, and BC faculty members, several of whom are KDP members. Dr. Tova Ackerman and Jason Leinwand amazed teachers with their Stop-Motion Animation, a vehicle for activating literacy in children. The cartoon created by students using this technique was amazing!

I presented a workshop on Teaching the Reluctant Learner, where I shared some of the strategies I use to motivate and support students. I am hoping to bring this workshop to Convo 2015 in Orlando!

Dean April Bedford

Dean April Bedford

Author Stephanie Calmenson gave a presentation about her career path as Kindergarten teacher and children’s author. Scholastic, Inc. donated free copies of Ready, Set, Dogs! No Dogs Allowed, which Ms. Calmenson co-wrote with Joanna Cole. I particularly enjoyed seeing slides which were motivations for her writing. One was a photo of her first manuscript, or what was left of it after her dog ate it! Afterwards, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Stephanie Calmenson as she signed copies of Dinner at the Panda Palace. You can hear her read this delightful PBS StoryTIme book.

Chapter President Barbara Buchholz presents Chancellor Carmen Farina with a gift membership and gold clad pin.

Chapter President Barbara Buchholz with Chancellor Carmen Farina.

The highlight of the day was the keynote speech given by New York City Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Farina, a dynamic educator who has not forgotten her own years in the classroom. Ms. Farina began by discussing Common Core, and emphasized that if the texts are not developmentally appropriate, then the students aren’t learning. “Literacy is joy” was a simple yet strong quote that reminded us that we need to find ways to not only meet the standards, but to teach students to love reading. Chancellor Farina supports picture books for all ages, students reading to each other, including older students reading to younger ones, independent reading to build fluency and stamina, and helping parents understand how to set the appropriate environment for doing homework. And who can argue with her philosophy on testing: More testing? No. More sensible testing? Yes! On behalf of Eta Theta Chapter, President Barbara Buchholz presented Chancellor Farina with a gift membership to Kappa Delta Pi.

Kudos to the dedicated professionals of Kappa Delta Pi – Eta Theta Chapter and the Brooklyn Reading Council who worked hard to make this event a huge success. Many thanks especially to our Chapter President, Barbara Buchholz and our Chapter Counselor and Conference Co-Chairperson, Sharon Kohn. Thanks also go to Dr. Victor Ramsey, Co-Chairperson of the Conference and Jennifer Hamilton-McKinnon, President of the Brooklyn Reading Council.

The Eta Theta Executive Board is poised to assist any other chapter needing advice or support in order to create a similar event.

It’s November–Time to Read with Your Family!

Rachel Gurley is chapter operations coordinator at Kappa Delta Pi.

Rachel_Gurley_6_10_14I firmly believe in lifelong education. I am only twenty-three and I already know I have so much to learn. Why not use every chance I have? The people around you are a wealth of knowledge. The content you allow yourself to consume could benefit you positively or negatively. This is why I am constantly reading.

At work, I listen to audio books on Audible or listen to the endless Ted talks that interest me. Now I want to share with you one of my favorite Ted talks. In honor of National Family Literacy Month (November), this woman came to mind. Susan Cain gave an excellent Ted talk on “The power of introverts.” In the bulk of her video she mentioned how much she and her family loved to read.

Instead of telling you her about her story, I’ll let her. Hope you enjoy this short Ted talk and maybe you’ll even be encouraged or learn something!