2021 Kindergarten Readiness Quality Subgrants recipients close the gap for local communities seeking comprehensive and strategic support for Pre-K children
Improving the rates of kindergarten readiness requires coordinated and accessible services and opportunities that empower and engage community members.
According to the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, early childhood experiences critically shape the development of a child from birth to age five. Kindergarten readiness—an assessment and the preparation of a child’s ability to transition into the learning environment that formally marks the beginning of their academic careers—is built upon early development experiences and early childhood settings. From recognizing letters and numbers to the ability to follow directions and adapt to routines and self-regulate emotions, kindergarten readiness encompasses a ranging skillset across several domains. Many parents and caregivers lack an awareness or struggle to provide the opportunities, resources, and social engagement that successfully transition a child from early childhood settings into kindergarten. With a child’s foundation to lifelong learning at stake, expanding services and supports for families and early childhood professionals is critical in building strong early childhood education in Kansas.
Among the 2021 Quality Subgrants recipients, Cooper Early Education Center, Kritter Creek Childcare LLC, Googols of Learning, Women’s Community Y Child Development Center, and USD 244’s Kindergarten Jumpstart program worked directly with communities to identify the conditions that lead to inequitable learning outcomes for children. The Kindergarten Readiness Quality Subgrants helps to sustain and support community-led efforts that meet the individual needs and learning levels of children as well as provides education and training opportunities for parents and early childcare professionals. These organizations focused heavily on outreach and education efforts since early awareness and advocacy is key in kindergarten readiness, and introduced parents and early childhood professionals to the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3 and ASQ-SE-2) and other resources and engagement activities.
As early childhood settings include a variety of environments tied to a family’s socio-economic circumstances, and with many families struggling to find and manage child care in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, kindergarten readiness programs have a substantial impact on a child’s current and future well-being.
Cooper Early Education Center
The Cooper Early Education Center identified gaps in services for children who showed a development concern or borderline delay, but who did not qualify for preschool special education or Head Start and other at-risk programs. To provide early detection of developmental delays and health issues, and to establish a positive connection between families and the participating school districts, CEEC expanded their affiliate Parents as Teachers program, a free, volunteer-based program designed to assist parents in their understanding of a child’s development. With Quality Subgrants funding, CEEC hired a new parent educator and also trained staff to receive certification in the Parents as Teachers Foundational 2 curriculum, and expanded its enrollment to include children from the USD 439 school district.
To learn more about the Cooper Early Education Center and Harvey County Parents as Teachers, email Parent Educator and Coordinator Brittany Denson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kritter Creek Childcare
With the high demand for child care and with the challenges presented by the pandemic, Kritter Creek Childcare LLC, a home-based child care provider in Valley Falls, KS, saw the growing social and emotional needs of their clients and children. With feedback from their enrolled families, Kritter Creek Childcare learned parents were struggling to provide the proper resources and activities for children at home, relying mostly on television and other screen-based entertainment, and lacked the time and resources to play or have dinner as a family together. To increase home-based family resources, Kritter Creek Childcare launched a series of family engagement events. In their “Funk or Sweet?” event on Oct. 29, 2021, children and families learned together through sensory-based activities. With over 100 people in attendance, children and families learned tools and resources through five activity areas designed to help with emotional awareness and regulation. At the event, Kritter Creek Childcare also gave parents and caregivers a kindergarten readiness pamphlet from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and ASQ-3 and ASQ-2-SE questionnaires. In December, Kritter Creek Childcare hosted a “Focus and Connection” event with a winter wonderland theme, and in March will be hosting “Pizza Party…Please,” an event focused on family-style dining and home-based skills. The final family engagement event will reveal Kritter Creek Childcare’s new Outdoor Exploration Environment, a learning play space, and will host physical fitness activities for children and families.
To learn more about Kritter Creek Childcare, email Principal Kelli Hernandez at email@example.com.
Googols of Learning and Community Children’s Center
Googols of Learning is a center-based child care provider in Lawrence, KS, and Community Children’s Center provides high-quality programming and services to caregivers in the Douglas County early childhood community. Both organizations work as part of the Lawrence Kindergarten Transition Team with other early childhood agencies and organizations in the city of Lawrence and with staff from USD 497. The team focused on community outreach and increasing professional development opportunities for 50 center- and home-based child care providers to give a comprehensive, coordinated understanding of the district’s teaching practices and expectations for kindergarteners. In June 2021, the team hired a Kindergarten Ambassador to work as an instrumental liaison for families, child care providers, and Lawrence Public Schools kindergarten staff. With this key position, kindergarten transition supports specific to the community were identified, including one-on-one meetings with the district representative of the Lawrence Kindergarten Transition Team, introductory meetings with Pre-K program providers, distribution of Kindergarten in Kansas brochures, and ASQ training opportunities and informational events for parents. Trainings and other activities and information were distributed throughout the year to align with the full transition period for Pre-K children and their families.
To learn more about Googols of Learning, email Executive Director Amy Gottschamer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Community Children’s Center, email Executive Director Kim Polson at email@example.com.
Women’s Community Y Child Development Center
Based in Leavenworth, KS, the Women’s Community Y Child Development Center is a non-profit organization that strives to provide comprehensive and high-quality learning programs and services for children and families. Working as part of the Leavenworth Kindergarten Transition Team, the team members have aimed to further support kindergarten readiness efforts of families, programs, and schools in the county by introducing and training members of community to common early childhood development tools and resources like ASQ. The team began with an ASQ-3 training for personnel in the Leavenworth County Infant Toddler Program and for Parents as Teachers educators. 20 people attended the in-person training with social distancing measures. The ASQ-3 training gave child care providers and parents working knowledge about the children they care for and also provided continued education hours for child care professionals. The team also worked with The PLAY Project, an autism intervention program, for families and caregivers of children who have characteristics of autism. Currently, 12 caregivers and 9 families have been trained in the program. These trainings and program resources will culminate into the Kindergarten Round-up Community, an event to bring all incoming kindergarten students in Leavenworth together, which the Women’s Community Y Child Development Center will host in April 2022.
To learn more about Women’s Community Y Child Development Center, email Executive Director Lisa Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
USD 244 Kindergarten Jumpstart
In 2020, approximately 50 percent of students who attended Burlington Elementary School (BES) were previously enrolled in Pre-K programs not facilitated in a school setting. USD 244 Kindergarten Jumpstart was designed with the intentional purpose of addressing transition concerns and to give students and their families a slower and more personal orientation to BES to help prepare them for the school environment. Kindergarten Jumpstart allowed students to learn the basic safety rules and expectations of BES; introduced students to key adults at the schools like their teachers, office staff, support staff, and principal; and gave students a chance to become familiar with key locations like the playground, bathrooms, lunchroom, and different classrooms before their first official day of kindergarten. The program ran for three days in three-hour sessions and thoroughly covered the students’ routines and school procedures. The program saw a high turnout of 65 percent of enrolled kindergarten students attending and received positive feedback from parents in an event survey.
To learn more about USD 244 and its Kindergarten Jumpstart program, email Principal Darla Long at email@example.com.
The Kindergarten Readiness Quality Subgrants continues to support community-led efforts that ensure a child’s successful transition into kindergarten. The current Kindergarten Readiness projects are for one year and will wrap up this spring. A new application is currently available for projects that will run through April 2023. The application period opened on Feb. 11, 2022 and closes on March 18, 2022. Prospective applicants should submit through the Kansas CommonApp platform.
About Quality Subgrants
Quality Subgrants equip communities with the resources they need to ensure every Kansas child thrives. Organizations that received Quality Subgrants address needs and gaps through locally driven ideas and approaches. In 2020, Quality Subgrants were awarded across five categories. The subgrants address All in for Kansas Kids Strategic Plan Goal 2: Community-level Collaboration; Goal 5: Capacity and Access; Goal 6: Workforce; and Goal 7: Quality and Environments.