Kindergarten attendance is a key element in achievement
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Reflecting on the excellent article "Teachers Help Lead Faison K-5 Into Future" (June 11) by Eleanor Chute, it's important to recognize that a key element in the effort to ensure "that all children -- no matter their family and neighborhood background -- achieve at high levels" is kindergarten attendance.
Arguably, the time for school systems to address the factors that contribute to low proficiency in reading and math (according to the article, in 2007, 95 percent of fifth-graders at Faison scored below proficient in math and 88 percent were below proficient in reading) is in kindergarten, if not before.
The transition to kindergarten sets the tone for a child's educational experience for many years to come. When strong, this transition can build the child's and the parents' confidence, increase on-time enrollment and early attendance, and lead to positive relationships between schools and families.
Nationally, nearly 50 percent of all children struggle with transition to kindergarten. This often results in late enrollment, missed relationship-building opportunities for teachers and parents and missed learning opportunities for children. In fact, 10 percent of kindergartners miss at least a month of school. In low-income urban areas like Homewood, as many as 50 percent of children are chronically absent during this formative year. This matters because low proficiency test scores in third grade are directly linked to kindergarten attendance. Third-grade literacy is a critical marker when children stop learning to read and start reading to learn. Unfortunately, however, of those children chronically absent in kindergarten, only 17 percent are reading at grade level by the third grade (source: www.attendanceworks.org).
Local initiatives such as High5! Kindergarten, Here I Come! (www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=213807438642606) and Ready Freddy (www.readyfreddy.org) support the transition to kindergarten and encourage regular attendance. In addition, recent efforts by the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the state Legislature to establish age 6 as the standard starting age point to a growing consensus around the importance of kindergarten. Schools and the community must work together to improve outcomes for all our children, beginning with a strong start in kindergarten.
University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development
First Published June 24, 2012 12:00 am