Kindergarten Readiness

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

Kindergarten Readiness: Originally published in November, 2018

It feels like the school year has only just begun, and yet with the year ¼ of the way over, preschool families are starting to think about what comes next: PreK, TK or Kindergarten for fall. Many families will apply for a spot in our Elementary Division, and parents often ask, “How do I know if my child is ready for Kindergarten?” What it is that we want kids to know and be able to do in order to be successful in an academically rigorous program like our elementary school? In public school, the main determining factor for Kindergarten readiness is whether (or not) your child turns five by September 1. In our school, that date helps to guide us but is by no means the final determining factor in Kindergarten readiness. And, misconceptions abound about what it really means to be ready for Kindergarten.

What does Kindergarten readiness mean at WHPS?
Many parents excitedly report that their child is reading, can count astronomically high, or has a wealth of knowledge about Mt. Vesuvius. While those are talents/interests we will continue to nurture, we are actually more concerned with a set of skills that precede academic success and are more highly correlated with a child’s long-term ability to learn: Attention, Sequencing, Processing, Agility/Balance, and the term you keep hearing about, Executive Functioning (EF). When most of us were in school, we sat at a desk and filled out worksheets or read out of a textbook and answered the questions at the end. Based on the last 30 years of educational research, we now have a very different understanding of learning, which happens through social interaction. But, for children to engage in the sophisticated pragmatics of learning through partner/group work and collaboration, they need a specific set of social skills and a high level of emotional regulation.

Research has proven that children who come into Kindergarten “reading” and “doing math” but with low EF, actually fall behind their peers (who started Kindergarten with lower math and early literacy scores) by 4th grade. We have seen this many times over the years where otherwise bright children can fall behind when they reach Upper Elementary (grades 2-5) because they struggle to independently navigate the aforementioned skills.

How is your child doing?
Our entire preschool program is backwards-planned to foster a strong foundation with all of these skills, including early literacy and math. But, if all children developed at the same pace there would be no need to evaluate Kindergarten (or PreK or TK) readiness in the first place. For parents who want to gather more information, the best place to start is with your child’s teacher(s). They work with many children your child’s age and can offer perspective on your child’s strengths as well as tricky spots. The Preschool Directors are also tremendous advocates for your child and a trusted source of information.

And finally, when you apply for our Elementary Division, we meet with your child 1:1 to conduct a thorough evaluation of your child’s individual learning profile. While our Admissions Committee ultimately has to make the difficult decision as to which students are accepted to the Elementary Division, we are able to share with you the results of your child’s assessment. This can help inform parents and the school on how to best support your child’s growth in the remaining ¾ of the school year so s/he is truly ready for what comes next.


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