As Verona Elementary School adjusts to the change, the school is trying to foster stronger ties with the educators that prepare its students before they reach class.
Principal Temeka Shannon invited local day care providers last month to a meeting in which Verona educators explained the new Common Core requirements to parents of kindergarten students. The Common Core is a new set of standards for kindergarten to 12th-grade students that many states have agreed to start following.
The standards, which were developed by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, will ensure that students learn the same skills throughout the country.
They also provide a challenge to schools, which are now required to teach many things more quickly or more in-depth than they had in the past.
In kindergarten, for instance, Mississippi students previously needed to learn one letter per week. Now they must learn two. Kindergartners need to be reading by the middle of the year.
This means, Shannon said, schools are even more dependent upon having students be better prepared entering kindergarten. That's where the meeting between school and day care personnel becomes so important.
"It is uplifting to see you here," Shannon said to the day care workers present at the Sept. 20 meeting. "It lets us know we are not in this struggle by ourselves."
Verona kindergarten teachers met for about a half-hour with owners and employees of several day cares that provide service to the school's future students. Kindergarten teachers Jacy Burcham and Sarah Roach told the prekindergarten educators about several skills that would be helpful for students to know before they arrive at Verona.
Those included things like the ability to count to 20 and to identify letters of the alphabet out of order and the development of fine motor skills and comprehension skills. The day care workers also held a discussion with school officials.
"This was a good meeting for day care staff," said Evelyn Northington, owner of Faye's Playhouse. "It will put us in line with the school, and we will know what our children need when they leave day care."
Florestine Gladney, the owner of TenderCare day care, said that it is very important to focus on core skills with 4- and 5-year-old children.
"We can help build the foundation because we get them at an early age," she said.
Most significant about the evening was the collaboration between the two groups of educators.
Shannon said that Verona wants to create a partnership with the day care workers. She invited them to visit the school at any time and to take advantage of its parent center, from which they can check out resources, games and books.
Verona Assistant Principal Letricia French, who had the idea to invite the day care providers to the parent information night, talked about fostering an environment in which the educators from both groups could come together to talk about ways to help individual students.
"It wasn't to say you haven't been doing an excellent job," French told the day care providers. "This was to open our doors and let you know there is a new curriculum.
"We want Verona Elementary and day cares to become partners. We wanted to open our classrooms to you and our school to you."
Shannon spoke of the possibility of follow-up meetings and even a workshop for the day care providers.
"It is a critical connection," French said. "If we don't press our students early, they come in already behind."