Preparing kids for success starts early

Our schools have changed drastically since many of us went to school.

Most of us remember the days of kindergarten being a time to socialize children and introduce them to group play. Today, the standards outlined for kindergarten students to master are significant and require that students come to school with a level of readiness never needed before.

In 2008, the Colorado Legislature passed Senate Bill 08-212, known as Colorado’s Achievement Plan for Kids. The state board of education was directed through this legislation to identify measures of school readiness and require that this data be tracked beginning in the 2013-14 school year.

In Durango this year, more than 100 of our 414 kindergarten students – almost 25 percent – lacked readiness in key areas that increase challenges for future student success and cause students to begin their K-12 career in a “catch up” mode. Children who begin their K-12 education behind their peers experience increased stress.

What “being ready” means for kindergarten may surprise you. Today, students need to come to school being able to count, knowing how to write and read their name, knowing their letters and the sounds associated with them, and being able to work in small groups with other children – taking turns and listening to others. Students also should be able to follow simple directions given by an adult and stay involved for periods of 10 to 15 minutes in an activity.

A number of research studies show that children who are ready when they enter kindergarten continue to out-perform students who were not throughout the entire school career, so it’s imperative that we all do everything we can to have them ready.

We are fortunate to have great opportunities for young children in the Durango area. Our school district offers a number of preschool opportunities for children, and in the coming year, we will expand those opportunities. Preparation for kindergarten is not tied to wealth or privilege. It truly is a matter of exposing children to rich language, a nurturing and predictable environment that encourages thought and exploration, and clear boundaries and expectations for our young children.

In the past, the district has focused preschool only on those who also required “child care” in a full-day setting. Next year, the district will expand options for families who want their child at home more often, but also want support for them in the development of readiness.

If parents suspect their child may have delays in development between birth and 5 years, they are encouraged to call our Child Find Office at 247-3261, ext. 146. Intervening early with children who may encounter learning difficulties or developmental delays allows great success in remediation and supporting the child. Research shows that every $1 invested in the support of a young child saves $17 in future services to address the same need. All children are different, and there is no shame in recognizing a learning challenge early and working to help them overcome that challenge.

In the coming months, we will begin advertising kindergarten and preschool events for parents to register children and get more information. We also will host events each month beginning in February for parents of young children to support them with appropriate ways to help prepare their child.

As always, your comments or questions are appreciated at DSnowberger@durango.k12.co.us.

Dan Snowberger is the superintendent of the Durango School District.