Half of Kentucky’s four-year-olds not ready for school


Kindergarten readiness in Kentucky is at a fifty-fifty split. 

The results of the recent Brigance Kindergarten Screener, a statewide test administered at the beginning of the school year, showed that half of Kentucky children are not adequately prepared for kindergarten.

The screen measures things like motor skills, awareness and engagement by having kindergarteners do things like counting, identifying body parts, and giving and writing their first and last names.

According to kidsnow.ky.gov, the purpose of this screen is to develop plans to improve kindergarten education. While 50 percent of kindergarteners did pass, there are still 27,475 four- and five-year-olds who did not. This means that thousands of children across the 173 school districts of Kentucky need help. 

There are 99,315 four-year-old children who live at or below the 100 percent poverty line in Kentucky, according to the 2015 Early Childhood Profile. About 6,000 of those children live in Fayette County. 

Poverty has been linked to issues in early childhood education. Parents living in poverty may not have as much time to spend with their children as parents who are in a better financial position. As a result, children in high-risk and poorer families statistically hear about 30 million fewer words than their peers. 

Katherine McCormick, an Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education professor at UK, knows about the effects of poverty on school-aged children and said there is a strong link between it and the dispositions children bring to school and their success in school. She said the time to intervene is well before the kindergarten years.

“The fields of early childhood and early childhood special education believe that waiting until kindergarten is too late to intervene in the lives of at-risk children living in poverty,” McCormick said. “We, like many of our colleagues across the country and world, believe that the most efficient and effective time to intervene is during the preschool years.”

Kindergarten is a pivotal time of learning and growth, but making sure children are ready to engage in activities at school is a community effort. After-school programs are a way Kentucky schools combat low performance. In Lexington, Tates Creek Elementary has a program called Tiger School Kindergarten Camp, which runs over the summer. Nancy Sprague, the school’s Family Resource Center coordinator, organizes the camp, along with other teachers that volunteer. 

Sprague said the program is structured around a typical school day. “We assess each student and determine what areas of development need support,” Sprague said. “We focus on making school an exciting and comfortable place to be. The program helps kindergarteners prepare socially and academically for their entrance to school.”

To improve education from a young age, parents and teachers need to take certain steps. Getting children into early education programs, for example, is a way to ensure they are ready for kindergarten by five years old. College students can help by volunteering. 

If you are interested in working with at-risk children and their families as a career and would like more information please see the Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education Program website at (https://education.uky.edu/edsrc/iece/).

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