CINCINNATI – For more than 10 years, United Way Success By 6® has been working to dramatically increase the number of students who show up to school prepared, and so far, the region is making progress in the pursuit to ensure at least 85 percent of children are prepared for kindergarten.
In United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s 10-county region, over 50 percent of children are starting kindergarten with skills that make them more likely to succeed, both academically and in life. 57.2 percent were assessed as ready in Cincinnati Public Schools. Preliminary results in Brown and Clermont counties indicate 81.6 percent of children entered kindergarten ready in the fall 2013. 53 percent in Northern Kentucky started the school year ready to learn.
"We know what the national and local data says about the importance of high-quality learning environments and developmentally appropriate experiences for young children. Early childhood education can not only vastly improve a child’s academic achievement leading to higher graduation rates, over the long term, research indicates these children are more likely to have higher salaries, which contribute to our economic growth," says United Way Success By 6® executive director Stephanie Byrd.
To reach 85 percent, over 870 students in Cincinnati Public Schools and over 1,500 in Northern Kentucky need to be prepared. An estimated 500 more children would need to be prepared in Clermont and Brown counties combined.
Why is there a continued push to ensure children are ready for kindergarten? Results from kindergarten readiness assessments in Ohio and Kentucky show quality preschool and early childhood experience matters.
United Way is building on existing, evidence-based strategies, testing new and promising practices, focusing on strategies that can grow, and using data to inform decisions and for continuous improvement. Local and national evidence of the positive impact of preschool on school readiness and third grade reading has led to the local effort to create the Cincinnati Preschool Promise.
What does it mean for a child to be ready for kindergarten?
"It’s more than naming colors, reciting the alphabet and identifying shapes. It’s about gauging social and emotional skills, does he get along with other kids and share; motor skills, can she hold a pencil and draw a circle; and self-sufficiency skills, can he listen and follow instructions," Byrd says. "Beyond what parents can do, we have to ensure public policy is in place to support this effort, social systems are equipped to give mothers and their babies an optimal start, investments are being made in educational infrastructure, programs and educators, and families have access to health care to ensure mental, physical and dental health."
Success By 6® has a data system project underway that will define the current state of the region and what 85 percent of children prepared looks like; determine what needs to be measured; identify the partners who can help the community achieve the goal; and align this effort with existing systems.
"Kindergarten readiness is the most important aspect of the education continuum and is one of the strongest predictors of school success. We need to make sure there continues to be enough resources to help these children succeed in kindergarten and establish a good educational foundation before they join the workforce," Byrd says.