VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) - Gone are the days of kindergarten games.
Nowadays, the list of what youngsters need know upon entering the public school system can be longer than the students are tall.
"As far as what children need to know today versus what they needed to know several years ago, it's all very different," said Kelley Crowley, principal at Vigo Elementary School. "So we need them to come prepared."
Kindergarten teachers with the Vincennes Community School Corp. have for almost a year working closely with the directors of local pre-K programs in establishing some common standards for what the kids need to learn before entering kindergarten.
Their hope is that with continued collaboration, youngsters will be able to hit the ground running the moment they enter the classroom.
During kindergarten roundup, where youngsters of age enroll in elementary school, they are assessed on whether they can write their name, identify letters and colors and even name more difficult, solid shapes like cones, cylinders and spheres.
They should be able to count to at least 20, identify words that rhyme and understand "positional" words like behind, over, under and beside.
"Kindergarten used to be all fun and games with a party every other day and nap times," VCSC superintendent Greg Parsley told the Vincennes Sun-Commercial (http://bit.ly/ZI3gOo ). "But with expectations and standards being thrust upon us, it's evident that the state, the Department of Education, is expecting these kids to come in and be ready to learn.
"I know it's not the kindergarten experience I had as a child," he said. "It's nowhere close. But it speaks volumes of the high stakes of education today. That kindergarten year cannot be dismissed as it used to be."
And while these standards may seem like a lot to ask of a 5-year-old, directors of pre-K programs say they're already tackling these lessons and more.
Just like public school teachers, they conduct annual assessments and hold multiple parent/teacher conferences each year. They keep extensive records of each child and his or her accomplishments.
It's their desire to see the kids succeed once they move into the public school system, and streamlining their processes, they agree, will go a long way toward doing that.
"We, too, want to create for them a smoother transition," said Caren Wild, the children services administrator at the KCARC Civitan Children's Center. "An open line of communication between the public schools and area preschools will allow us to better understand what they want.
"And in doing this, we can share their expectations with parents as well."
Wild has been attending the meetings along with representatives from Pace Community Action Agency Inc.'s Head Start program and the local YMCA. Crowley said officials with the Washington Christian Center, who have hopes of opening a pre-school program there, have also attended a few meetings.
The group met Monday afternoon at Vigo to discuss how pre-K youngsters are evaluated. They all agreed, to make the process more effective and efficient, to have the VCSC create a checklist for the pre-K instructors to fill out on each child before they enter kindergarten.
That form would then be provided to kindergarten teachers so they have some knowledge of that child's development, such as behavioral issues, bathroom habits, etc. It would also be placed in the student's permanent file so if he or she changes elementary schools, which many students do multiple times a year, it will follow the child.
The pre-K directors also expressed a willingness to meet with teachers from the VCSC and discuss specific children on an as-needed basis.
"We are already doing a lot of these things," said Tanya Bezy, a site manager with Head Start. "What we want to do now is just build upon it."
"We want to do anything we can to build communication with our students and their families and then share that information with the public schools," added Kerry Kroeger, another Head Start site manager. "And we want to let our families know what will be expected of them as well."
Parsley has sat in on many of the meetings and is more than pleased with the collaboration he is seeing between his kindergarten teachers and the local pre-K directors. If this program is successful, he believes, it could eliminate the need for the school corporation to open a pre-K program of its own, something the school board has considered in years past but lacked the financial stability to do.
"I've said all along that we've got enough on our plates right now, and we do not want to be in the pre-K business, especially if we can get our partners to step up and help us do things," he said. "And I applaud this group. They are all of the same mindset and are, in many cases, already doing what we need them to do.
"But it's also a two-way street. We're looking at how we can help them, too."
Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) proposed a pre-K voucher program as part of his 2014 agenda. The program would give underprivileged children access to pre-K programs.
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