Many children not ready for kindergarten

djournal-education-newsBy Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

More than 40 percent of Mississippi kindergarten students begin school unprepared, according to their teachers.

Results of the first statewide survey of Mississippi’s public school kindergarten teachers were released this morning by Mississippi KIDS COUNT, located at Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center. Respondents estimated that 41 percent of their students were not “kindergarten ready” and identified that as the top challenge they face.

The KIDS COUNT “Ready or Not” report coincides with the release of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s national policy report “The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success.”

Nearly 83 percent of the Mississippi teachers surveyed in the KIDS COUNT report supported the adoption of universal assessments that could be given to kindergarten students to determine their school readiness. Among other findings of the report:

• More than 70 percent said they had at least one child in their classroom repeating the kindergarten year.

• Teachers believed that one-third of their students did not have significant adult involvement in their lives.

• One-third of kindergarten teachers said they have conversations with preschool teachers about their child’s transition to kindergarten, and less than 1 percent said they engage in home visits prior to the kindergarten year.

• Classrooms comprised of predominately black students tended to be larger in size, had smaller percentages of children with “significant adult involvement” in their lives and had more children identified as “not kindergarten ready.”

Meanwhile, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s report is from a national study that began to track 13,000 children who were in kindergarten in 1998-99. It showed that 19 percent of those in families with incomes less than 200 percent of the poverty level had developed appropriate cognitive skills by third grade, compared to 50 percent of those with higher family incomes.

It calls for more support for parents, increased access to high-quality birth through age 8 programs, investments that target low-income children and programs that support all aspects of a child’s development.

Mississippi KIDS COUNT will have news conferences today in Jackson and Petal to provide more information about the reports.

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com