How To Get the Preschool to Kindergarten Transition Right

preschool to kindergarten

For children and their parents, it’s an exciting and daunting time: The move from preschool to kindergarten.

But a new report looks at the keys for that transition — and how getting it right can make a big different in a child’s education success down the road.

The report, Transitions and Alignment From Preschool to Kindergarten, was compiled by the Education Commission of the States, which partners “with education policy leaders to address issues by sharing resources and expertise.”

Successful coordination between preschool and kindergarten helps to lay the groundwork for a child’s positive school experience.”

The authors note the connection of early transitions to future success: “Policymakers and educators continue to grapple with issues of persistent achievement gaps in student performance at third grade and beyond. As they do, they look for ways to create a more seamless system of education that is ‘connected from one stage to the next — reducing the chances that students will be lost along the way or require remedial programs to acquire skills or knowledge they could have learned right from the start.’”

They continue: “Successful coordination between preschool and kindergarten helps to lay the groundwork for a child’s positive school experience. If this transition does not go well, children can be turned off to learning and school at an early age. By aligning standards, curricula, instruction and assessments between preschool and kindergarten, children can experience a seamless pathway that sets them up for future success.”

The Commission “identified these two key elements that states can consider when creating a coordinated preschool-to-third grade system:

  • “Effective transition programs and practices that help the child and family move smoothly and successfully from one learning setting to another.”
  • “Authentic alignment of the basic pedagogical components of early learning and kindergarten to create continuous learning and teaching experiences.”

Today we address the transitions; tomorrow we’ll cover the alignment.

Effective Transition from Preschool to Kindergarten

The report highlights important reason to focus on the transition from preschool to kindergarten:

  • “Researchers continue to find strong relationships between children’s cognitive and social competence before kindergarten and later academic success.”
  • “An inadequate transition from preschool to kindergarten can result in children experiencing high levels of stress, which can interfere with their academic performance and emotional adjustments.”
  • “Ineffective transitions at this juncture can also lead to poor social adjustment, which may have negative consequences later — including chronic absenteeism and failure to make the academic gains necessary to succeed by third grade and beyond.”
  • “When a young child transitions successfully, he or she is more likely to enjoy school, show steady growth in academic and social skills, and have families who are more actively engaged.”

Beyond outlining the issue, the report offers specific actions that practitioners, families, and policymakers can take. Child and Family Strategies include:

  • Child visits to the kindergarten classroom
  • Kindergarten teacher visits to the preschool classroom
  • Teacher home visits
  • Workshops and networking for parents of young children
  • Attendance at schoolwide events for families and children
  • Kindergarten orientation sessions before school starts
  • Parent-child learning programs held in schools

Program-level Transition Planning strategies include:

  • Use of common transition forms across multiple programs and schools
  • Creation of transition teams and transition liaisons in districts and schools
  • Joint professional development for early education and early-grades teachers
  • Shared data and common data points across systems
  • Teacher-to-teacher conferences

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