Local educators presented strong statistical evidence Friday that children who are judged “ready for kindergarten” at age 5 significantly outperform other students on the state third-grade reading test and go on to higher rates of academic success.
The data was discussed at the fifth annual Kindergarten Readiness Summit, run by Learn to Earn Dayton and ReadySetSoar. More than 500 educators and community leaders attended the event at Sinclair Community College.
“There’s no question that the future of our nation depends on our workforce, our workforce depends on education, and our education success depends on whether children arrive at school ready to learn,” said State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, chair of the Senate education committee.
Robyn Lightcap, director of ReadySetSoar, cited a University of Dayton analysis of 11 local school districts, tracking student testing over multiple years. The data showed 96 percent of those who scored in the top tier on Ohio’s Kindergarten Readiness Assessment-Literacy later passed the state third-grade reading test. Eighty-five percent of those in the middle tier on KRA-L later passed that third-grade test, and only 63 percent from the bottom tier passed third-grade reading.
Lightcap and several other speakers said the data shows how important it is that more local children get an opportunity to attend high-quality preschools, so they are ready to learn once they reach kindergarten.
Tom Lasley, executive director of Learn to Earn Dayton, said only 37.6 percent of Montgomery County students scored in the top tier on the state’s Readiness Assessment in 2012-13. He tied that to the fact that only 78 percent of students passed the third-grade reading test.
“I don’t think either one of those numbers represents Montgomery County very well, and that’s the reason we’re here today,” Lasley said. “Our goal is to figure out as a community, as people who are committed to the future growth of the Dayton region, how do we make sure that we have numbers that we can take pride in?”
Lightcap said about 42 percent of low-income 4-year-olds in Montgomery County do not attend preschool, accounting for about 1,300 children per year. But she said that problem is solvable. Lehner told the audience that legislation likely to be introduced in the coming weeks by Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, would address some of those students.
Lehner said the bill would stop the practice of bouncing children out of preschools midyear when a parent loses federal aid eligibility, and would expand childcare eligibility for poor working parents. She urged supporters to make their feelings known to state legislators, warning that getting the bill passed “is not going to be an easy lift.”
The Summit included teachers, preschool and day care providers, public, Catholic and charter schools. Trotwood schools Superintendent Kevin Bell – who was joined at the summit by all 15 other public school superintendents in Montgomery County – said those districts have dramatic differences in socioeconomics, but are united and committed when it comes to Learn to Earn and school readiness goals.
Lightcap showed kindergarten and third-grade test scores from every district in the county, pointing out that even higher-performing districts have room for improvement.
ReadySetSoar’s three main strategies to get kids proficient in reading by third grade were kindergarten readiness, summer and after-school education, and school attendance. Each of those has parent involvement as a key point.
“The parents have the most impact on the child’s education,” said Elizabeth Conner, who teaches at the Marilyn Thomas Head Start preschool in Trotwood. “I see it every day in my classroom. The parents who are engaged, who make contact on a daily or weekly basis to see how their children are doing, those kids go to school ready, and they come to school (regularly).”
West Carrollton schools Superintendent Rusty Clifford said in his 42 years in education, he’s never seen such a large focus on early childhood education as we have now, calling it long overdue. Lehner agreed, saying a focus on early-childhood growth now could take away the need for as much remediation later.
“I think all of the data shows that the most bang for the buck, the place where we can really make a difference is in early childhood,” she said.