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Participants of the Frankfort Urban Core Collaborative write ideas for what increasing Kindergarten readiness should look like in Frankfort at the group's first meeting on July 23, 2019. (Photo by McKenna Horsley)

Teachers, parents, administrative staff and other stakeholders gathered at the Frankfort Independent Schools central office Tuesday to discuss the state of early childhood education in the community.

Among the group, which is called the Frankfort Urban Core Collaborative, were kindergarten and preschool teachers from the school district, parents and FIS Board of Education member Amelia Berry. This was the group's first meeting. 

FIS announced this summer Profile of a Kindergartner, a program that complements the efforts of the district's Profile of a Graduate work. As of now, the program is a guide for parents and teachers about getting kids from birth to 5 years old ready for kindergarten. Between 38% and 52% of FIS kindergarten students since the 2013-14 school year have tested as “ready,” according to BRIGANCE test, which is required by the state to determine kindergarten readiness. 

Special Education and District Student Services Director Brittney Howell said that making sure that kids are developing and learning early can help them later in life. The 2013-14 class of kindergartners tested at 38% ready on BRIGANCE, according to data previously provided by Howell, and, 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. 

“I really believe that birth to 5, if you get that right, the rest is so easy,” Howell said. Profile of a Kindergartner links to Profile of a Graduate, which helps students build skills that they will need for a career after graduation. 

Melody Stephenson, a parent of an FIS student, said that learning for children begins even before preschool.

The group talked about getting local pediatricians and OB-GYNs on board to talk about early childhood education with new families. 

“When we talk about kindergarten readiness, it starts prenatally,” Stephenson said. 

On Tuesday, Howell gave a presentation and led group discussions surrounding questions like “How do we increase our kindergarten readiness from a community perspective?” and “What can we do to achieve our goals?”

The group came up with three main themes — mentoring families and their students, improving communication and having structured social-emotional learning. Howell said she will work with other FIS staff to make clear, attainable objectives from those themes.

Some of the issues that the group identified were a lack of knowledge about resources in the community and not having an after-school program. Some solutions included partnering with city officials and Frankfort businesses to bring awareness to resources for families having home visits for all students. 

Howell said the group will continue to meet at least quarterly for now and she hopes to include other community members in the future to grow the number of participants. 

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