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Easing the transition to this early grade can yield dividends later on

August 23, 2017
Christina Samuels
Education Week

The kindergartners are coming.

And these children, nearly 4 million strong in the 2017-18 class, are more likely than any other grade to be a blank slate to their teachers. But states, districts, and individual schools are working to change that, by creating transition programs to ease children’s entry into school.

In some areas with publicly funded pre-K, teachers are huddling to share information about children’s strengths and weaknesses with the kindergarten teachers who will educate them next. In other areas, some districts have created their own programs, such as short-term summer classes that give young children a taste of what kindergarten will be like or home visits that allow teachers, parents, and children to connect in a familiar environment.

These programs do more than calm first-day jitters or ease the minds of anxious parents. Research demonstrates that children and teachers reap tangible benefits when schools engage in more transition activities. Parents initiate more involvement in school during the kindergarten year, and children end the year with measurably higher academic achievement.

The same research, however, has shown that the pupils for whom this impact is strongest—children from low socioeconomic backgrounds—tend to attend schools that are the least likely to offer transition activities.