Districts working to prepare families for start of year

Five-year-old Addison is reading with her parents, has perfected writing her first name and is getting used to using an iPad by playing on the device at home.

But Center Grove parent Adam Kreinhop has one more lesson he needs to teach Addison before kindergarten starts in the fall: Tying her shoes.

“She’s got Velcro straps. I don’t even have shoe laces,” Kreinhop said.

As kindergarten gets closer, thousands of children are being enrolled in local schools and taking assessments on what they already know, including reading, writing the alphabet, naming colors and counting, before they start kindergarten. School districts do not lay out specific benchmarks of what their incoming students should know, but do monitor how much students know before the school year begins.

In past years, those early screenings or assessments done after school starts have found that as many as half of kindergartners are not prepared for the lessons they are expected to be learning in school.

School districts have tried to prepare families before starting their children in kindergarten, through parent informational meetings and readiness camps for students to help boost their skills, such as counting to higher numbers or writing their first and last names.

Parents may not realize how much some kindergartners know by the time school starts, said Dawn Underwood, who runs the Johnson County Learning Center and is founder of the Johnson County Early Childhood Coalition. The coalition, which includes leaders from school districts, social service centers and day care organizations, is hosting a kindergarten readiness meeting where parents can learn about activities to do this summer before school starts and ask kindergarten teachers questions about classroom curriculum.

“We want children to be prepared for kindergarten,” Underwood said.

Every child must have an assessment with a teacher or administrator when enrolling in kindergarten, to gauge what the student knows.

Most school districts had a screening with each child this month when families are invited to tour the school, meet teachers and sign up for school. During the screening, children do basic fundamental tests — counting as high as they can, going through the alphabet and sorting items by shape.

School officials will use that information when assigning students to each classroom, so teachers have an even amount of children on every learning level, Westwood Elementary principal Dave Ennis said.

A few years ago, anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of students were not prepared for kindergarten, and school officials identified that as a significant need, with many putting a bigger emphasis on preschool, early assessments and kindergarten camps.

Center Grove officials save their screenings for the summer, when teachers can spend more time with each family and go over the results with parents, said Center Grove assistant superintendent of elementary curriculum Marcy Szostak.

If students are struggling with certain concepts, teachers can discuss ways to incorporate those concepts into every day life, Szostak said.

Greenwood students who do not have all the essential skills by their kindergarten screening, can join a kindergarten camp, Ennis said.

Every Greenwood elementary school runs the camp as a group, to prepare students later in the summer before kindergarten starts, he said. That way, children can get into the routine of listening to a teacher’s directions, doing some of the simpler tasks in the classroom and getting used to the school environment, Ennis said.

If you go

School officials, preschool centers and day care organizations have teamed up to host a free kindergarten readiness event next month:

Where: Greenwood Public Library, 310 S. Meridian St., Greenwood.

When: 6 to 7:30 p.m., May 9

To register: Contact the Greenwood Public Library by May 6 by calling 317-881-1953 or register online at greenwoodlibrary.us