Frankfort Independent Schools will soon roll out a new program to help families get their children ready for kindergarten.
Profile of a Kindergartner, named after the school district's Profile of a Graduate program, will help prepare children from birth to 5 years old for kindergarten. The program will be launched this upcoming school year as a guide free to local parents and set up to evolve as it progresses.
Brittney Howell, Special Education and District Student Services director, said the document was created to be a resource that connects FIS with stakeholders such as families, community leaders and child care agencies. After this year, the district will assess data obtained from the program to make goals or plan individual interventions for students, Howell said.
The school district is finalizing some details before fully promoting and releasing Profile of a Kindergartner, Howell said. She asked the school board to give feedback on the program at its June 10 meeting.
The program has five areas, which mirror Profile of a Graduate’s main tenants:
I can communicate
I play with others
I am in charge of my actions, thoughts and feelings
I explore and ask why
I can create
FIS implemented Profile of a Graduate last year. That program focuses on getting students ready to enter the workforce after graduation.
Profile of a Kindergartner has a list of “readiness targets” or skills, like naming basic body parts or knowing simple personal information such as name, address and phone number, that students will need when they start kindergarten. The program also includes a home literacy environment checklist parents can follow to introduce and expose children to reading regularly.
Tips in Profile of a Kindergartner are separated by age group, such as babies, toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners.
Measuring the readiness of a kindergartner is currently defined by a test that public schools use. The state has a mandatory screening test for students who are preparing to enter kindergarten called the BRIGANCE Kindergarten Screen. According to the Kentucky Department of Education, the screening takes 10 to 15 minutes and measures kids’ strengths and weaknesses in areas of developmental growth.
Howell said BRIGANCE was a good first step for Kentucky educators to define what it means for a kindergartner to be “ready.” The test leaves some gaps in terms of information provided to school districts and is not inclusive of all of the skills that the district thinks students need when coming into kindergarten, Howell explained.
BRIGANCE focuses on things like motor skills and pre-academic knowledge, but not areas like language or communicating with peers and adults. Students who were maybe a couple points away from the ready target are grouped with students who scored lower. Finding a way to account for these areas was the start of creating Profile of a Kindergartner.
“If we can get birth to 5 right, the possibilities are endless to where our school district could go, where our community could go. The return on investment in early childhood is second to none,” Howell said.
About 90% of the brain is developed before age 5, meaning the majority of students’ brains are established before they even set foot in a classroom. How children learn in those developmental years will follow them the rest of their lives, Howell added.
According to data provided by Howell, between 38% and 52% of FIS kindergarten students since the 2013-14 school year have tested as ready according to BRIGANCE. Howell believes that by reaching these students before they get in the classroom, test scores will improve as well as the overall education of students.
The 2013-14 class of kindergartners tested at 38% ready on BRIGANCE, and then, as third graders, they were 36% proficient or distinguished in reading and 45% proficient or distinguished in math. As fourth graders, the class was 38% proficient or distinguished in reading and 49% proficient or distinguished in math.
Some of Profile of a Kindergartner will be subjective, Howell said. For instance, how a student demonstrates playing with others may look different from multiple teachers’ or guardians' perspectives. However, the program will allow FIS to see if students can demonstrate their wants and needs.
Howell said the most important thing for her is that Profile of a Kindergartner is not used as an evaluation tool but rather a method to focus on individualized learning.
In order to discuss other ways Profile of a Kindergartner can benefit the community and brainstorm other ways to use the program, FIS will have a meeting of the Frankfort Urban Core Early Childhood Advisory Council on July 23 at 11 a.m. To attend the meeting or ask questions about the program, contact Howell at email@example.com.