A question we know many of you are asking, what is this year’s Community Kindergarten Readiness Measure?
This unprecedented year has turned so much on its head. Because we were only able capture a readiness snapshot of about 50% of children, we aren’t able to share an aggregate measure. But what we do know: The really important thing about moving from 43 to 70% readiness, is that it got us here- a common measure, a rally point has been a collaborative tool. Last year our community moved the needle to 70%, a 225% increase in readiness over a decade. This year we don’t have that measure. What we do have is last year’s data that at least 30% of kindergarteners require us to reach deeper. Based upon economic challenges we think the need is even greater and the strategies to include whole families are essential. The next 30% requires that we look beyond outcomes to the hidden drivers of early childhood development locally at the intersection of multiple factors. This will require a different degree of work. I’m confident that with stability of community partnerships firmly established - we will continue to advance.
Rick Dernberger of Coldwell Banker Realty asked: Always curious about the impact of pandemic on childhood readiness.
It is more impactful than we even know and the ramifications are projected to last a decade or longer. The pandemics are laying bare the realities of education and health inequities.
These are a few of our current realities:
Where educators and students are right now – this morning - home
So A significant # Kindergarten students aren’t learning with classmates this year. In fact, they didn’t even register to start kindergarten so will likely enter school as first graders.
Fewer children enrolling in preschool - but increased demand for educators to provide resources to support home learning
Another striking reality? Child health- physical and mental
Impact of food scarcity, increased sitting time, off the charts screen time, fear about immunizations, family stress.
Unbuffered stress. It is an insidious driver of illness- it tends to isolate people and though the mind forgets, the body remembers and its impact will have lifetime consequences if left unbuffered.
Countering all of the above- Ready for School is being strategic in our approach to come alongside partners and to fill gaps during this time. One example is top of mind. Economic stress is real and Ready for School’s ability to link families with the CFHZ and Movement West Michigan’s direct cash assistance provides a real buffer. Ready for School families received over $10,000 through this program.
From Kim Koeman (CEO in Action of Racial Equity, Herman Miller) What kind of public policy would help advance your mission?
Your question hits the nail on the head- policy. Ready for School isn’t a policy advocacy organization, but with mutual trust established, and a listening before leading approach, we know that there isn’t one intervention that helps build equity from life’s very beginning, I’ll share my top two:
First, A public-private framework that allows for evidence-based solutions to support
The business of
Access to and
Affordability of early care and education from birth
This is important because early care (child care) is an essential business operating on razor thin margins. Providers have to be superheroes- they need to be child development experts, never get sick, be business savvy and willing to accommodate the changing needs of families. Many providers don’t clear a livable wage so, as is, it is an impossible business model to maintain.
And the dominant pay to play structures in the early care and education business, don’t allow for equity in access for high quality care.
Second, create a funding for health and education data sharing that de-silos key social determinants of health. I’ll give you an example: learning to read. We think of reading as an “education” issue, but it isn’t. In a society that requires reading to learn about the world, getting a job and figuring out medical instructions, it is a key driver of health. Dr. Nate Chomilo, a leader in the AAP’s DEI work, says it best, “Drivers of health are based on how we have structured opportunity within our society. They include things like housing, nutrition, access to employment, and education which all start with a child’s ability to read.”
From Jane Clark (of West Coast Chamber): How can our community help once the pandemic is over to fill the learning gap created by COVID?
You know Mr. Rogers’ mother told him during a crisis, to first find the helpers- I love imagining a community full of helpers. Thanks for the questions. This is an extraordinary time to respond to a multifaceted crisis. There are 3 ways we need to reimagine filling learning gaps: year round learning, resilience building and recognizing kindergarten readiness as an indicator of community health and vibrancy.
Over the last 7 years, Ready for School’s entrepreneurial approach to our community as a learning lab is reimagining access to quality learning by creating a year round early learning model. We have led school systems and hired top notch educators and partners to reimagine how our community supports learning, formally and informally.
We’ve always known that learning happens everywhere children go. Our community is a classroom for resilience building. Resilience isn’t a trait you are born with. It’s learned. One of my heroes, Dr. Mona Hannah-Attisha says, “Just as a child can learn to be resilient, so can a family, a neighborhood, a community, a city.” Community collaborations that are the most effective toward protecting and sustaining the development of our youngest children need to be supported long term. We have the opportunity to innovate, look at challenges with fresh eyes, and strengthen systems and infrastructure for all children.
So I challenge us to flip the script:
Are WE, as a community, ready for kids?
Are WE as a community ready for families who have kids?
Are we building the infrastructure that will lead through this extraordinary time and beyond, for the challenges into the next decade?
And the third, Kindergarten readiness transcends education and health outcomes, it is structural and place specific, and that data tells us that Kindergarten readiness is an indicator of community health and vibrancy. Ready for School is here to help.
-Dr. Donna Lowry,
President & CEO
Ready for School
Wednesday, December 2, 2020