Now entering its third year of implementation, the Altgeld-Riverdale Early Learning Initiative’s Pre-K to Kindergarten Transitions Program is designed to help young children in the Altgeld-Riverdale community acquire the academic and social/emotional skills necessary to enter kindergarten feeling confident and developmentally prepared to succeed.
Rather than working with individual schools and childcare centers, this program takes a community-wide approach, involving 18 classrooms in six different schools and childcare centers across the community. Teachers meet monthly to develop and implement common classroom practices, share success stories, and address common challenges together. As a result, teachers are better prepared to make the preschool to kindergarten transition a more successful one for their students, while students know what to expect no matter which school they choose for kindergarten.
At a recent meeting with school administrators to discuss the program, Aldridge Principal Cynthia Treadwell reported encouraging data. On an assessment of literacy skills at the beginning of this school year, every Aldridge kindergarten student who participated in the transitions program last year as a preschooler scored at grade-level expectations. Comparatively, students who did not participate in the transitions preschool program last year scored lower. “It’s really true that alignment works,” she said, adding that teachers can tell which of their kindergarten students participated as preschoolers last year, not just academically but also based on their social and emotional skills.
Principal Treadwell also reported that she has seen a substantial increase in the level of parent engagement among preschool parents, along with an increase in school attendance by their children. “Parents are seeing the connection between how well their children are doing in school and the importance of attendance,” she said.
The Transitions Program also promotes teacher/family interaction by organizing joint preschool and kindergarten field trips and after-school activities for families and children, creating a deeper bond among teachers, families, and students.
Researchers at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research studied the Transitions Program during the 2016-17 school year. Researchers employed a mixed-methods approach that included teacher and family surveys across all schools and centers participating in the Transitions Program; interviews with teachers; focus groups with families; and observations of Transitions Program activities. Study findings are due to be released in early 2018. BPI is hopeful that the learning gleaned from this research will be useful to other low-income communities interested in developing similar programs.
“Through our research on the Transitions Program, it has been inspiring to see a whole community come together to support the development of young children as they transition into the school system,” said Stacy Ehrlich of the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research.
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