State will access "kindergarten readiness"

Panama City - Last week we told you the Florida Board of Education has new standards for voluntary pre-kindergarten programs. At least 70% of a preschool's students must score "kindergarten ready" on two assessments in order for the school to receive funding.

But what exactly does "kindergarten ready" mean? And how should parents prepare their children if they don't go to pre-k? NewsChannel 7 spent a morning at the Good Shepard Early Learning Center in Callaway to find out.

For Celeste Warner and her daughter Emily, it's easy to say good-bye in the morning. That's because Celeste knows Emily is learning the skills she needs to be ready for kindergarten in her pre-k classroom.
Now the Florida Board of Education is stepping in to make sure every voluntary pre-k program gets kids "kindergarten ready."

Emily's teacher likes the idea of holding every instructor accountable. "Anybody who teaches VPK, we should all be on the same page, putting forth just as much effort. These babies are the reason we are here. If you heart is not here you shouldn't be," said Kaylen Hamrick.

So what exactly does being "kindergarten ready" mean? Lynne Eldrige, the executive director of the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida says that means children should have basic concept knowledge. "They should be able to recognize their name. To know the alphabet letters, also a little bit of math, the basic numbers with meaning, being able to add, those are the kind of things, the basic foundational knowledge that comes from good parenting and good programs," said Eldridge.

If a parent decides not to send their child to voluntary pre-k program, experts say it's important for children to participate in a play group so they can learn from the social interaction. They say they should also
know their alphabet, shapes, numbers and be able to write their name.

Eldridge says she just hopes the new standards allow children to be children. "What they do on that swingset is just as important as what they do in their circle time right now."

Voluntary pre-k programs are free for parents of children who turn four on or by September 1st. Most of the programs are about 3 hours a day. For more information about what pre-k programs are available in your area, click on the link provided, or call 850-747-5400.


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