More than 200 early educators, kindergarten teachers and administrators from across the county gathered on Wednesday, February 24th, for the 1st Annual “Together for Kindergarten” community forum. Organized by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education with the assistance of a grant from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the forum presented an opportunity for early educators to come together to exchange ideas and propose activities that support kindergarten readiness.
In her keynote address, Delaine Eastin, former California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, noted that, “growing cultural, ethnic diversity of our children suggests a greater need that all of our children enter kindergarten ready to learn. They’re starting the first grade two years behind. Ms. Eastin stated, “The truth is that closing the achievement gap requires that we provide quality pre-school, but it also requires that effective transitions occur. And the fact is, that this is the first ever meeting like this in this county. That’s fantastic because tonight you’ve embarked on those successful transitions. You’re helping our schools to be ready, both as pre-schools and as kindergartens.”
As he moved around the crowded room, Michael Watkins, Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools was impressed with what he saw and heard in the conversations happening between the representatives of preschools and kindergartens. “The bridge from pre-school to elementary school has to build on trust and collaboration. It’s all about putting the child and family at the center of the conversation,” stated Watkins.
Eastin also stated that public perception of the “readiness gap” is not supported by facts. “63% (of Americans) believe that if children enter kindergarten unprepared, they will catch up in elementary school. Americans believe that but it is, in fact, not true. The gaps start early and persist.”
The evening was deemed a success by all attendees who look forward to the next step in the process of providing preschool for all children in the county. The excitement of the evening is continuing and participants are working on next steps as they build on the momentum begun that evening.
Following are some excerpts from Delaine Eastin’s keynote address:
“Preschool makes a difference in readiness. That is something you can say emphatically… The truth is closing the achievement gap requires that we do quality pre-school, but it also requires that effective transitions occur. And the fact is that this is the first ever meeting like this in this county.”
“I’ll tell you I do think the gaps start early and persist. Everything we can do to foster an understanding of how we stop the gaps, how we close the gaps, how we all get out of our silos so that, instead of narrow little focus entities, we are a team that’s working together. We do need transition activities, not only between kindergarten and pre-school, but between all of us and the families.”
“I would also say that I loved having the pre-school teachers and the kindergarten teachers talking to us up here. Because, indeed, we are part of a team and the work we do is in fact about communicating with one another. I love that there’s going to be a data system so you know who is in your hub. There again, it’s getting us out of a silo and into a pattern of cooperation, participation and engagement with one another.”
“At the end of the day, you know you’re determining which way this democracy goes. Oh, I’m all for us being economically successful, I’m a believer that we have to improve our economy, but if the democracy is going to succeed, all these kids have to believe they’re in the same family, part of the same country, and the country’s got to care about them. We’ve got to show them, because you’re the representatives of the county, that we care about them. We care about whether they win or lose; we care about whether their families win or lose; we care about the future of their lives.”