Launch of the new 40-day Kindergarten Readiness program on June 30; community partners sought

According to 2019-2020 statistics, half of Greater Owensboro children who get off the bus for the first day of kindergarten are unprepared — and it’s one of five significant gaps in kindergarten readiness at the grade level. local. In the first of many steps to address the issues, an education-based partnership is launching OK GO, a 40-day program to help children and their parents/guardians prepare for the first day of school. The committee is looking for 30 other community partners to help with the initiative.

The partnership is led by the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. Representatives unveiled the OK GO program Thursday at a special joint luncheon with the Owensboro and Daviess county school boards.

Earlier this year, the partnership identified five key points in the current early childhood education (ECE) landscape, along with six recommendations on how to address the issues (described in more detail below).

OK GO is the first step in addressing the first recommendation to launch a public advocacy campaign to encourage community-wide support, according to Benjamin Geis, director of early childhood policy and practice for the Committee. Prichard.

Geis said OK GO will launch June 30 on, and will be a free digital tool that will be distributed via email and mobile phone notification, as well as in print to those who need it.

The main objective is to help parents prepare their child for their first day of kindergarten.

“This is 40 days of content, where each day the parent will have a 2-3 minute exercise to do with their child at home related to evidence-based kindergarten readiness skills,” said Gies. “It’s the ABCs, the 123s, fine motor skills, and all that. But there’s also stuff in there for parents — reminders about enrolling in kindergarten, if all the forms are in order, which contact in each school district if they have a question.

Gies said they’re in the process of bringing together 40 community partners “to really make this a hyperlocal, community-driven, on-deck initiative.”

He hopes to secure a wide range of partners, from local attractions/museums, to local businesses, to any other organization invested in educating young learners.

Gies said it doesn’t take much to get involved. He said it’s as simple as hanging the OK GO banner in the store front and having “a little incentive” to encourage the parent and child to continue their 40 days of work before the first day. from kindergarten.

He said the incentives could be anything from stickers or goody bags to free coffee/snacks to discounts on tickets or purchases.

“It’s a win-win. It helps the community get their kids ready for kindergarten, and if you’re a small business, it directs immediate traffic to your workplace,” Gies said.

Members of the Greater Owensboro Partnership for Early Development represent the business, preschool and K-12, local nonprofit, higher education, faith-based, health, and social sectors. government.

The partnership discovered that access to high-quality preschool education is not available to all children in Greater Owensboro for a number of reasons, ranging from affordability and availability of preschool learning environments of high quality to issues related to the recruitment and retention of early childhood educators.

The Greater Owensboro Partnership for Early Development first met in June 2021. Partnership members met frequently to determine what actions the community needed to take to improve access to early learning opportunities for all children through their engagement with local, state and national early childhood experts. and various local voices.

Current landscape of early childhood education

In their presentation, the group highlighted five key points in the current landscape. (More details can be found on pages 5 to 8 of this document.)

  1. Significant gaps exist in kindergarten readiness for children in Greater Owensboro.
    • On average, about 49% of Greater Owensboro students arrived in kindergarten unprepared, as reported by Brigance’s 2019-20 selection officer.
    • On average, about 59% of economically disadvantaged students, 76% of students with disabilities, and 75% of English language learners arrived in kindergarten unprepared in Greater Owensboro.
  2. Greater Owensboro students who score below the kindergarten readiness level have a high probability of not achieving proficiency on the 3rd grade reading test.
    • On average, 46.9% of Greater Owensboro students have not achieved reading fluency by the end of 3rd grade, as indicated by 2018-2019 K-PREP scores.
    • On average, approximately 55% of economically disadvantaged students, 69% of students with disabilities, and 63.5% of English language learners failed to achieve reading fluency by the end of Grade 3 in Greater Owensboro.
  3. Only about 20% of children under age 5 in Greater Owensboro have access to ECE services.
    • The U.S. Census estimates that 6,773 children under age 5 reside in Greater Owensboro.
    • The 2020 Kentucky Early Childhood Profile estimates that in Greater Owensboro:
      • 267 children are cared for under stand-alone Head Start or Early Head Start programs.
      • 383 children are served by Head Start and Public Preschool or in mixed programs.
      • 700 children are served in a self-contained public preschool program.
      • Of 6,773 children in Greater Owensboro, only 1,350 are enrolled in the above ECE services.
  4. Access to quality ECE services is not universal
  5. Disparities in workforce development and professional compensation create gaps in access to quality ECE services

What the recommendations contain

Based on the landscape and feedback from all sectors, the partnership’s recommendations include (more details can be found at pages 9-10 of this document.):

  1. Recommendation 1: Launch a public awareness campaign to encourage community-wide support for quality early childhood education. with young children, but the community as a whole.
  2. Recommendation 2: Implement early childhood education talent development and retention strategies to meet early childhood education workforce needs.
  3. Recommendation 3: Implement employee-focused child care partnerships between employers and child care centres. Small, medium, and large businesses can be encouraged to offer child care benefits to all employees. Public-private partnerships, federal tax incentives and a matching grant available through the Kentucky Division of Child Care are each ways to increase child care benefits for Greater Owensboro employers.
  4. Recommendation 4: Identify and enroll all families eligible for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) subsidy and maintain CCAP eligibility at 200% of the federal poverty level and make all children under 200% of federal poverty level eligible for public preschool. Innovative community partnerships with organizations such as Owensboro Center, Audubon Area Community Services, and/or Owensboro Public Schools/Daviess County Schools can fill gaps in access to education. Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) enrollment for families at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
  5. Recommendation 5: Raise the quality of all child care centers to 3 STARS or higher and clear Head Start, Preschool and Child Care waiting lists for all children under 5 years old. The Daviess County Child Care Community Council may partner with entities such as Child Care Aware and/or Lakeshore Learning to mentor child care centers rated below 3 STARS to increase their quality rating.
  6. Recommendation 6: Use data to monitor continuous improvement in educational outcomes for children enrolled in early childhood education programs.

Julio V. Miller