During the fall, Verona Principal Temeka Shannon announced a new effort by the kindergarten to fourth-grade school to work more closely with its local Head Start centers and day care providers.
The partnership includes meetings between kindergarten teachers and early child care workers to discuss ways to help each other, joint training and shared school resources.
Last week, when the Lee County School District had an early-release day, 17 Verona Elementary assistant teachers attended a training at the school about multi-sensory techniques to use while teaching reading. Eighteen day care and Head Start workers accepted the school's invitation to attend the same training.
Shannon said the effort is intended to help the school better improve student achievement. If students are more prepared to enter kindergarten, educators can do more with them once they arrive.
The demands have become even higher as new national Common Core State Standards mean kindergarten students must learn more than they had to in the past.
"Each year, 70 to 75 percent of our kindergartners in Verona enter school below grade level," Shannon said. "We work extra to play catch-up each year and try to grow the students. Some we grow and some we don't.
"With common core, it will be much more difficult to catch those students up.... It is our goal to help our day cares adjust their teaching strategies so when the students enter kindergarten, catching them up won't be as difficult."
Sherry Gill, owner of "A Rainbow of Love" day care, attended last week's training. She said she has enjoyed the partnership with the elementary school.
Often she comes to the school, visits classrooms and watches teachers' instruction methods. She also gets resources from the school library, which helps her discover what her students should be reading.
It allows her to build skills so she can better prepare students for kindergarten, she said.
"I can learn things here and advance them and use them to have those children ready so that they can do even better," she said.
Last week's training was led by Anne Whitehead, a Title 1 lead teacher for the school district's Reaching Reading Success program. It was the second training Whitehead had lead for the group on Orton Gillingham methods, a multi-sensory approach for teaching reading.
"Ms. Shannon came up with the idea, and I agree with her, that if we are ever to reach core standards we are setting out in education, our children need to come to school more ready to learn," Whitehead said.
Thus, she said, it is important to have the cooperation of the early-childhood educators. It is also important, she noted, to reach the children's families and stress to them the importance of talking to their children, reading to them and rhyming with them.
Paulette Collins, who teaches 3-year-olds at Faye's Playhouse and Learning Center, said Whitehead's training showed her better ways to teach her students pronunciation.
"It has been really helpful," she said of the partnership with the school. "...When the children leave day care centers, they are coming right over here. We see what the school is expecting, so we know how to teach our children."
Shannon said the school also intends to send its teachers to the Head Start and day care centers to explain more to them about the new Common Core standards and what is required.
"They will go through and review each standard, what it is asking, how to assess it, how to teach it and how to measure mastery of the standard," she said.