Getting on the Same Page in Springfield

Recently, a Springfield Area Building Bright Futures Council had a member transition from a family home care provider to a position within a school district.  After taking this position she learned just how much she was unaware about her students’ readiness for kindergarten from the kindergarten teacher’s perspective.  If information is not communicated from elementary schools about concepts incoming children are finding difficult such as, rhyming, patterns, or letter recognition, then preschool teachers are unable to make adjustments in their programs to help students be more prepared. The council has always known that kindergarten transition is important in setting up a student for success in elementary school.  However, we began to understand just how difficult it was to set up this communication channel. We also knew that each district or supervisory union has different strategies to aid the transition process for children between preschool and kindergarten. Through this conversation the Same Page Initiative was created.

When a child moves from a preschool to kindergarten in the elementary school with the big kids there are many new experiences.  Perhaps a child has to ride the bus to school, use a locker, make new friends, or meet new teachers, all while new expectations are being placed on them in a new environment.  This can be stressful for children and families.  The communication between teachers is important but we also knew we would have to expand this initiative to include families.

The Same Page Initiative is designed to offer optimum education opportunities through collaboration and unique partnerships benefiting every child that will eventually attend kindergarten.

Vermont has recognized the importance of early care and education with the passage of Act 166, Universal Pre-Kindergarten.  This act has entitled all children ages 3 to 4 to 10 hours a week of pre-kindergarten allowing them to have quality, formative, early learning experiences therefore preparing them to succeed in school.

Families, early education teachers, kindergarten teachers, and community partners are essential in a child’s success at school.  This is where the Same Page Initiative comes in: to ensure a supported early education system that prepares all children and families for kindergarten success.

Initiative Goals

  • Build bridges between early childhood educators and kindergarten teachers to enhance understanding of what it means to be successful in kindergarten. Also, it aims to open opportunities for kindergarten teachers to learn from early childhood educators about the children who will attend their kindergarten class.
  • Connect teachers, families and community resources to support a child’s readiness to learn in to kindergarten
  • Support understanding of assessment tools Teaching Strategies Gold and Ready For Kindergarten! Survey to strengthen children’s readiness entering kindergarten for educators and families.
  • Ensure reliability in student assessment to ensure accuracy of data collected using Teaching Strategies Gold and Ready For Kindergarten! Surveys
  • Align Vermont Early Learning Standards with practices to ensure all essential areas of development are being nurtured in our children
  • Provide trainings and facilitated discussions to strengthen collaboration supporting our children’s success

Putting the Initiative into Action

In order to begin to meet these goals, the Springfield Area Building Bright Futures Council has partnered with the Springfield Area Parent Child Center, Windham Northeast Supervisory Union, Springfield School District, Mt. Ascutney Hospital and the Ascutney Mountain Promise Community to create the Same Page Initiative, secure funding, and establish relationships to make this program successful.

Our first task as a regional group has been to plan and host two trainings aimed at bringing together preschool teachers, kindergartners, support services and other professionals touching children in preschool and kindergarten.  Sessions were designed to enhance understanding of teaching strategies in both kindergarten and preschool, learn more developmental appropriate activities that could be done to support readiness, the role of play in learning, understanding of expectations, and changes in laws.  Sessions were designed to facilitate discussions on how we prepare our children for kindergarten and how we can help those in elementary school settings to make the transition easier for children.

Our first day of training occurred on November 17th where we had 52 participants.  Some of the ideas that were brainstormed for enhanced transition activities included joint field trips, transition plans beginning in September, meetings between school districts and supervisory unions to learn what others do for kindergarten transitions, and school bus rides to ease the anxiety that children can feel.  A second day of training took place December 1st where participant dove deeper into the above mentioned topics.

Another aspect of the Same Page Initiative that is being piloted in the Springfield School District (SSD) is a teacher mentorship program.  We learned that both kindergarten and preschool teachers want to go beyond the short conversation about individual children and expand their partnerships into shared teaching practices and enhancing the connection between both elementary schools and early care settings. SSD has started a reciprocal teacher mentorship program.  Early care teachers have the opportunity to teach alongside kindergarten teachers to learn what is expected of kindergarteners, teaching practices used in the schools, and expectations.  Kindergarten teachers are then given the opportunity to teach alongside early care providers to learn where children are coming from, understand different teaching strategies and ways to modify their program to better suit the needs of incoming students.  Teachers are paired up one-on-one to strengthen relationships and are encouraged to make multiple visits to the others classroom.  This is a new pilot but so far there have been very positive reactions to the opportunity.  We are waiting to see what teachers learned from each other and how this impacts kindergarten readiness.

Another goal of this program is to continue the conversation locally at supervisory unions and school districts.  While doing the trainings at a regional level is beneficial because everyone is getting the same information, the real place that these changes can take place is locally.  We hope to support conversations and share information across supervisory unions and school districts.

Beyond the initial training days, the team has visions of expanding this program to spread best practices happening in Supervisory Unions and School districts, providing trainings for families, being able to host trainings every year regionally and more.  As we gain traction and continue to be innovative in finding ways to fund, listen to the communities needs, and support education, we are sure that the impact of the Same Page Initiative will continue to grow.

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