Demystify The Game of School For Students and Families
Some families know how to play the game. If Kindergarten Readiness were an Olympic event, some families would receive a gold medal, while others would not even qualify for a medal. Educators can quickly identify the children who have participated in a structured preschool or home school program before the first week of kindergarten.
Why do thousands of students graduate from high school with a diploma, only to discover that they are not prepared for freshmen courses at a two-year college or entry-level work in the community? Some families begin preparing their fourth grade child for AP courses and college scholarships, while other families wait for the school to send a letter home indicating, “Your child is not ready and the indicators point to the following….”
What makes a student kindergarten ready? The answer to this question provides the theme for this article. Families who can answer this question have an advantage over families who are sending their child to kindergarten and praying for a miracle.
Readiness For The Next Level
Readiness is a term that is used at each grade level. At some point, a student may be labeled at-risk because he or she is below grade level. School staff use multiple indicators to highlight that a child is simply not ready to perform at grade level.
Students and families are often misled by a system that does not send clear signals regarding what is expected of them along the way (Conley, 2007; Kirst & Venezia, 2004; Wimberly & Noeth, 2005). Websites need to become more transparent when it comes to defining readiness. School staff need to explain what it means when they say a student is at grade level or below grade level. Grades and attendance are indicators that are measured, but there may be other indicators that schools need to report to families.
High School Readiness
Graduating from high school has become a minimum requirement for success in terms of employment, salary, and future career choices. However, nearly one-third of students nationwide do not graduate from high school, and the dropout rate is even higher for minority students. (Gwynne, Lesnick, Hart, & Allensworth, 2009, p. 5). Middle school progress indicators should be used to identify students who are off-track for high school readiness. While the United States is emphasizing a move to college and career readiness, students and families need to know what it looks like to enter high school ready for success. Families who know how to play the game have been preparing their children for high school success for over one hundred years.
College and Career Readiness
Traditionally, middle schools and junior high schools have given students a letter grade indicating how their child performed in English, mathematics, science and other courses. The report card sends a message to families that students are prepared to succeed in high school courses. Each year, thousands of students enter their senior year of high school believing they are ready for college because they have completed the required courses and passed all of the standardized tests (Conley, 2007).
Families need to have a clear understanding of what it means to graduate college and career ready and how they can become partners with the school staff. Schools need to communicate a clear message to families.
Five Strategies For Demystifying The Game of School
If your school district has defined readiness for each grade level, then communicate the goal with students and families on the district website. Provide exemplars or show work that indicates a Level I – IV. Use family-friendly language to explain what a student needs to do to prepare for the next grade level.
- Define what it means to be classified as Kindergarten Ready.
- Describe a student profile for a student who is “Ready” upon entering grades 1-12.
- Define Middle School Readiness
- Define High School Readiness
- Define College and Career Readiness