Delaware Families Benefit from Emphasis on Early Learning
This blog post was written by Harriet Dichter, Executive Director of the Delaware Office of Early Learning. She will be a featured panelist at the Vision 2015 Conference on October 17, 2012.
As our early learners—infants, toddlers and preschools—move from the sandbox to the schoolyard, there is often a big disconnect for children, teachers, and families. One of Delaware’s Office of Early Learning’s key priorities is to lessen that disconnect. We need to create continuity between early learning and early elementary school. With new resources from the federal early learning grant competition we just won, we have some innovative work in this area.
This year, over eight dozen kindergarten teachers at 19 schools are initiating the Delaware Early Learner Survey. The teachers are observing up to 1,000 kindergarten students in the early days of school, documenting and recording the children’s developing skills and abilities in all of the areas that we know lead towards their school and life success: language, math, and science; executive function; and social and physical skills. These teachers in our first cohort group are hard at work, and we are working with them to learn from their experiences as we head towards including all teachers and all kindergarten students in the Delaware Early Learner Survey by the 2014-2015 school year.
The Delaware Early Learner Survey plays a critical role in our efforts to create alignment between early learning and early elementary school. Through the Survey, we’ll gain a good understanding of how we’re doing in preparing our youngest citizens for kindergarten. We can put that information to good use as part of our ongoing work to strengthen early learning and support the best possible outcomes for children, families and our communities. And kindergarten teachers benefit from the Survey as well, providing them with more information to help plan their approach with their students and assisting them in their partnerships with families.
Implementing a new initiative is challenging work, but we’re already starting to hear some of the positive outcomes from the Survey. One principal shared his unique strategy for using training and companion resources to support teachers. Half-day substitutes staffed their classrooms so that all of the teachers could attend the online trainings together. They are using Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to discuss successes and challenges with data collection and entry. Another principal shared that the most rewarding part of the tool is the way he can use it to visually show parents the continuum of learning for kindergarten students in the different domains of development.
We’re getting lots of input from the kindergarten teachers who have a wide range of ideas about how kindergarten teachers from all around the state can work together to maximize their time with our kindergarteners. Ideas range from a Teacher’s Kindergarten Club to designing activities that help with gathering data, and how to use the data to enhance their instruction. Many teachers have voiced their excitement about gathering information about the whole child (social-emotional, cognitive, and physical development) that expands initial understanding of their student’s kindergarten readiness.
Stay tuned as we deepen our work in this area.