Success Starts Young: Closing Achievement Gaps Where They Begin

A National Symposium on Early Learning Standards, Kindergarten Readiness, and Technology and Early Learning

Kindergarten Readiness
September 18, 2015 — National Press Club — 10:45 AM

People in this video:

Janine G. Bacquie
Andrea DeBruin-Parecki
Dorothy Strickland
Judith Walker
Dawn Kurtz
Adele Robinson
Krista Scott

Transcript Body

On-screen: [Janine G. Bacquie, National Director of Early Childhood Policy and Practice, BCCC and Freedom Schools Administrator, Children's Defense Fund]

Janine G. Bacquie - Good morning, everyone. Good morning. I'm Janine Bacquie from the Children's Defense Fund, and I'd like to welcome you to the School Readiness panel. Before we get started I just wanted to say I reminded my friends on the panel here that I was a child that grew up on Sesame Street, absolutely loved Sesame Street. Anybody else here grow up on Sesame Street? And when I closed my eyes for a moment and I sort of invoked the theme song, I remembered that the first words, first you'd hear the music. Close your eyes for a second. Remember the music? It's like the percussion is coming in. And the first words were, "Come and play. Come and play. Everything is A okay. Friendly neighbors we meet. That's where we meet, so come and play." So I'm going to come and play with us on the School Readiness panel, but I just kind of thought of that as we had this discussion about play earlier.

So we're going to talk a little bit about school readiness today. We have a panel of four wonderful experts. We're going to provide you with a definition of kindergarten readiness. We're going to talk a little bit about developing critical executive functioning skills through language and adult, rich adult-child interactions. We're going to talk about foundational skills of early literacy and how they're key components of preschool standards. And we're going to talk about issues related to measuring kindergarten readiness, especially between and amongst diverse groups of children.

So I'm going to start by reading the bios of our speakers today, starting with immediately to my right Dorothy Strickland. She's the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Professor of Education Emerita and Distinguished Research Fellow at the National Institute of Early Education Research at Rutgers University, formerly known as the Arthur I. Gates Professor of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, she's been a classroom teacher, reading consultant and learning disabilities specialist. She's also past president of both the International Reading Association and its Reading Hall of Fame. An author of numerous books and articles in the area of literacy development, she's received numerous awards including IRA's Outstanding Teacher Educator of Reading Award, the National Council of Teachers of English Award as Outstanding Educator in the Language Arts, and National Louis University Ferguson Award for Outstanding Contributions to Early Childhood Education. Strickland has served on numerous advisory boards and panels, including those that produced Becoming a Nation of Readers and Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children.

To her right is Rosemarie Truglio. She is the Senior Vice President of Curriculum and Content at Sesame Workshop, where she's responsible for the development of interdisciplinary curriculum on which Sesame Street is based and oversees content development across platforms – television, publishing, toys, home video and theme park activities. Previously Truglio managed an interdisciplinary global content team responsible for all global co-productions and content development across all media platforms, including digital media. From 1997 to 2013 she oversaw all educational research pertaining to program development, the results of which informed the production and creative decisions on how to enhance the entertaining and educational components of linear and interactive content. Before joining Sesame Workshop in 1997, she was an Assistant Professor of Communication and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Truglio has written numerous articles in child and developmental psychology journals and presented her work at national and international conferences. Additionally she's co-editor of G Is for Growing: Thirty Years of Research on Children and Sesame Street. She is accepted on numerous broadcasts; she has appeared on numerous broadcasts, cable, and radio news and talk programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN's Headline News, Sanjay Gupta MD, Showbiz Tonight, and NPR's Morning Edition, and has been interviewed by reporters from a variety of national newspapers and news agencies. She currently serves on several advisory boards for PBS KIDS, Next Generation Media, the Playability Scale Board, Parents Choice Foundation and the Ultimate Block Party Learn News, as well as for NSF REESE Grant Collaborative Research, using educational DVDs to enhance preschoolers' STEM education. She previously served on the National Child Health Child Health and, Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council for Children's Digital Media Center Advisory Board and the National Association for Media Literacy Education. Truglio received a PhD in Developmental and Child Psychology from the University of Kansas and a BA in Psychology from Douglas College, Rutgers University. She has also received distinguished alumni awards from Douglas College, and the University of Kansas and Rutgers University.

To her right is Judith Walker. Judith Walker is the Early Learning Branch Chief in the Division of Early Children Development at the Maryland State Department of Education. She previously served on the Maryland Governor's Council for Effective Educator Effectiveness and as President of the Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals. Walker began her career as a kindergarten teacher in several Maryland school systems and was an elementary school principal in Maryland for 22 years. She earned a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education Early Childhood from Shepherd University and a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education from George Washington University.

And last but not least is Dawn Kurtz. She is the Senior Vice President of Programs for Los Angeles Universal Preschool. She's worked in the child development and early childhood education fields for more than 15 years. In that capacity she provides executive leadership for staff who support a network of more than 600 early education programs across Los Angeles with a goal of improving and sustaining quality. Since joining LA Universal Preschool, Dawn has played a key role in the development and implementation of multiple QRIS projects, including Race to the Top, Early Learning Challenge and the QRIS block grant. Prior to joining LA Universal Preschool, Dawn spent six years at First 5 LA, where she played an integral role in the conceptualization, planning, development and oversight of various phases of funding initiatives designed to improve the well-being of children and their families in Los Angeles County. During that time she managed the First 5 LA's Early Childhood Education Portfolio, which included LA Universal Preschool as well as school readiness, family literacy and workforce development. Early in her career Dawn was a project director for a study on the impact of neglect on adolescent development and the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California. Dawn has presented and published work on the developmental consequences of child abuse and neglect. She has also worked as adjunct faculty at Cal State University, Los Angeles, and Whittier College, where she taught courses in psychology and child development. For the past two years Dawn has served as a member of the Los Angeles County Policy Roundtable for Childcare and Development. So we've got a great lineup of experts and we will begin with Dorothy Strickland.

Dorothy Strickland - Thank you very much. I'm delighted to be with you today and to talk about early childhood education. It's a hot topic and deservedly so. There's an ever-growing awareness and appreciation of its importance by educators and by the general public as well, and this wasn't always true. I'm going to focus on an area of early childhood that receives and deserves a great deal of attention in early childhood standards, instruction and assessment. That area is early childhood language and literacy, and we already heard from the people who talked about standards. It was referred to quite often. Unfortunately, however, it's often misunderstood by early childhood educators who often want to focus almost exclusively on the ABCs and the sounds the letters make. The letters don't make any sounds. Never mind. Too often it's our poor and minority children who bear the result of that miseducation by well-meaning hard-working teachers. It's not a question of either/or, folks, but how. How do we help children think, think, think with text, and at the same time help them to understand how texts are constructed, and that's the ABCs and all the other kinds of things we know about the construction of text.

So what is a text? Well, a text is what I'm delivering right now. In a classroom it would be a book read aloud, a story or a description of something that's shared with children, as well as a wide variety of opportunities to listen to material and view material through a range of technology. Making sense, that is thinking with text, is what reading and listening are all about. Responding to and creating text is what speaking and we usually say drawing/slash/writing with young children are all about. Much of this is done through play – again, it's not either/or – where they, and we've all seen children do this, especially at centers, attempt to recreate something that they enjoyed. Keep in mind that pre-K is a key part of a continuum. Now I've heard this over and over and over again and I just can't say it enough. Pre-K teachers through third grade really need to be aware of the continuum for all those levels, and they need to have specific expertise in the level that they address. But that business of the continuum is really important for all teachers and, by golly, you're likely to have much of that continuum in any particular group. It's not just that you're teaching some defined restricted group of children in terms of abilities and experiences. And, again, that's something that we know quite well.

And here before you are a list of key ideas that transcend the entire early language and literacy spectrum. And very, very quickly, the components of language and literacy, the listening, speaking, reading and writing, they are to be integrated with each other and with content of interest and importance to children, and this was a little about alluded to in the standards discussion. Folks, you're reading about something. You're talking about something. That's the content. You don't teach language arts and literacy in isolation of content. They need to be bridged. Teaching for thinking and problem solving is valued. Yes, little kids can problem solve, sure. They're active participants in the process and the strategies are used to support the language and literacy of all children. And, you're kidding me. I only have two minutes? Well, let me just end with the talk, the story this morning was really great and relates to what I'm just going to share with you now. All of this is, of standards, it's important to set standards. I've served on some of the standards committees that were talked about earlier, the national ones, but unless teachers understand what they look like and how to execute them in terms of learning experiences, they actually can get in the way.

Miss Jones loves science. She is also passionate about the need to develop language and literacy in her students. She teachers four-year-olds. In an effort to get them to think about how plants grow, she read to them from a couple of books about growing things. For example, a tree is nice, that kind of thing, but lots of books about plants, fictional and nonfiction for young children. Occasionally Miss Jones would interrupt the reading to ask a question or two, underscore a point made in the book. The questions were designed to help children focus on a problem in the text and decide how to solve it. Sometimes they talked about what they already knew about plants. Each book was given a second reading, and after the second reading Miss Jones asked the class to tell her something that they had learned. Key statements were written down on a chart and read back to the class by Miss Jones. This relates to Common Core, the key elements in the text and then the specific elements that support that key element. It's in every single level. I'm very familiar with those, with the assessments and with the Common Core. That's at every level. Starts down there with this kind of instruction. The class decided to take a walk in their neighborhood to see what, if anything, was growing there. They discussed what they learned. They wrote, with the teacher holding the pen Marie Clay style – oh, some of you know who I'm talking about – from the discussion and these were written down on a chart. They also decided to try growing a plant or two in their classroom. Miss Jones brought in some tiny seedlings. The children helped to plant them. They used what they had learned from the books and what they had written down to decide what they needed and what they had to do. Words such as soil, earth, water, moisture and light were used not as a list, but in context, and the children start to use those same words. They cared for their plant. Math people, they measured the plant, and their growth and discussed what was happening.

Think about it. The things that are up there, and I have more slides I was just going to run through, but the elements that are on that slide are actually working in that classroom. This teacher understands the standards. She knows how to address the standards in a developmentally appropriate way. The kids are active. It's experiential and it's playful. And do they go out on the playground and kick a ball around? Of course. And do they play in the classroom, just select things to do? Of course. But they also do these things as well. And they're learning a lot about language and literacy, but it's definitely coordinated with content. And if you read the first part of the Common Core State Standards, and I'm very familiar with what's there, the integration of, and I'm talking now about the English language arts, the integration of listening, speaking, reading and writing are essential, and the integration of those things with content are essential. And we need to do more at the lower levels, but I'm on a real mission right now to get the science and social studies people in the middle school to know that they have a responsibility for this as well. It keeps on going. Thank you.

Janine Bacquie - Now we'll hear from Rosemarie Truglio. Thank you.

Rosemarie Truglio - Well, that was a great example and I'm really glad you used science as an example because I think we do need to do a lot more in early childhood education around science goals. So thanks for that example.

Sesame Workshop commissioned Mathematica to look at the kindergarten readiness dataset from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study of 2011, and the results of that is that over 40 percent of US children are entering kindergarten not proficient. They looked particularly at four risk factors associated with children's development and school achievement: single-parent households, mothers with less than a high school education, households' incomes below the federal poverty line and non-English-speaking households. The more risk factors a child had, the lower the child's performance was on reading, math and executive function skills, which I want to be the focus of my brief presentation today, working memory and cognitive flexibility tasks.

High-risk children, those with all four risk factors, were found to be almost one year behind their peers with no risk factors in reading and math abilities. When they looked at the teacher ratings of these children in kindergarten and they looked at their teachers' assessment of academic skills, but also their children's approaches to learning, and social, emotional and in particular executive function skills, they only said 28 percent of kindergarteners were ready for school. So we were rather astonished by these statistics.

So we were rather astonished by these statistics, and we do need to do more in terms of professional development, and as Dorothy said there are some wonderful teachers such as Miss Jones out there and what can we do to help them all be of the high quality as Miss Jones has given her kindergarten classroom. So while a lot of attention is given to children's academic skills as a predictor of school readiness, we're learning a lot that children's executive function skills are a key component to school achievement. But what are these executive function skills? These are the cognitive processes that underlie goal-directed behavior, and are orchestrated by the activity in the prefrontal cortex and are part of a broader category called self-regulation. Another way of saying it, these are the children's ability to have conscious control of their thoughts, actions and emotions. These skills enable children to respond to situations in a more purposeful way, a thoughtful way, a controlled manner so that their reactions are less impulsive and much more reflective. These skills serve as a general foundation for content learning across all content domains. And we can't underestimate, and I'm going to say cognitive processing skills, because as Dorothy said the importance of critical thinking, helping children think.

So at Sesame we gave a lot of thought to this, and as you've been hearing we're a whole child curriculum, but we've taken a much more integrative approach to school readiness and put these core cognitive processing skills right smack in the middle of this whole child curriculum so that we are emphasizing how these thinking skills, these cognitive processing skills, are servicing the learning of academic skills, the social-emotional skills as well as their overall health.

Now some people say, "Well, these are really difficult skills and these are really young children," but what we've learned is that it is during these preschool years that we see the most rapid growth in the development of these executive function skills. These skills are not innate. They have to be learned. We have to model these skills. And how do they get learned? How do they get modeled? We talked about play. Yes, it is through play. It is through these everyday moments in a young child's life that they get to learn these skills.

Think about some of these skills listed here: turn taking, sharing. That happens during play. Talking instead of hitting. Well, that's quite a big challenge for really young children. First you have to be in much control of your emotional state, which we do a lot of belly breathing these days and keeping calm, but you also have to have the language. How do I express how I'm feeling? What are the nuances of language? Am I angry? Am I jealous? Am I afraid? What am I feeling, whatever the words? You can't show kindness and compassion unless you are self-regulated and you have a better sense of your own emotional state. How do you not just blurt out answers? Raise your hand. Well, we have a lot of executive meetings at Sesame. Now we have everyone raising hands because of my executive function curriculum. Staying focused during story time and not wandering. Listening to directions. Using your working memory to remember what the sequence of those steps are or the rules of a game. Waiting in line. That's a big challenge for young children. Knowing when to use an inside voice versus an outside voice. Waiting to open up that present. Not an easy one, and I'm going to talk more about that later in the keynote and how we're helping Cookie Monster be much more in control of his impulses. Coping with transitions, very difficult. Think about the numerous transitions that a child has during the preschool day. Many transitions. And pretend play. Don't underestimate the power of pretend play in building executive function skills because you're adopting roles. You're maintaining who is doing what role. There's lots of negotiating going on back and forth.

As I said, these are not innate skills and children need to know what the strategies are to build these skills, and once again we have to show them what these skills are. And so I truly believe that media, if it's done well, can be wonderful opportunities for modeling what these strategies look like. Self-talk. We engage in it ourselves. But did you know that prior to the age of seven they're much more explicit? They just speak. So you know exactly what's going on in young children's head. We know. We're doing it, but no one else does it because after the age of seven they internalize it. But self-talk is so important for us to maintain our attention, help us shift our attention, help us rehearse. Especially as we get older, working memory is beginning to; if you go back to that chart we're beginning to decline. It's self-talk that could help us with that. Counting, singing, playing with something else, these are strategies to help children to get their attention on that box, that present that they want to open up, delayed gratification. Belly breathing helps us keep calm. Sometimes children may have to hug themselves in order to keep calm, another strategy.

We're doing a lot of stop and think on Sesame Street because sometimes you do need that reminder to not be impulsive, and you do need to stop, and think, and then figure out what is the best strategy to solve this problem. Listening with your whole body. Eyes watch, ears listen, lips quiet, body calm. So if you see the executives from Sesame Street doing that, you know where they got it from. Why are these skills important? Well, they're positively linked to school readiness and academic achievement. They're linked to math and reading skills. They're linked to SAT scores, college graduation, and they're a better predictor than IQ. But they're also related to well-being in our life in terms of our physical health, our credit card scores, lower drug use and criminal convictions.

We talked a lot about the community, and I apologize to the librarians in the room and I'm going to be adding librarians to this list. We do a lot to create content directly to the child, but we know that that is not sufficient when we have over 40 percent of children not ready for kindergarten. We must reach the parents. We must reach the grandparents, the extended family. We need to work with the early childhood education professions and we need to work with the community at large. And as a result, we have numerous digital resources on our website – I'm going to be talking about this in a little bit – there to get this information out into the community across a whole child curriculum. And that's it. Thank you.

Janine Bacquie - Help me welcome Judith Walker. Thank you.

Judith Walker - Good morning. My role is to give you a flavor for what our state, as an example of what a state might be doing in terms of looking at kindergarten readiness, and how as a state we talk about what that means, as well as how we're getting a feel for what that looks like with our children in our school system. So several, well, 13 years ago in Maryland we've had what we call the Maryland Model for School Readiness, and that involved a framework that had standards that we were using at that time. We had a tool that was developed that was based on a work sampling system that we used, and we had professional development modules that we put in place to help teachers understand how to work in the different domains and how to help prepare children, because in Maryland kindergarten is mandatory and so that's our first official entry point into the school system, although we do now have pre-K programs in all of our school systems for children who are income eligible.

As the standards began to change, when Common Core came into place and Maryland rewrote its standards, we have in Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards that are written from pre-K through grade 12, so we consider ourselves to have a pre-K through 12 system. And we knew we needed to realign the tool we've been using, which we, the acronym became MMSR tool. We needed to realign that with the changes that we had in our standards. We were the grateful beneficiaries of some Race to the Top grant funds, and we used that money, part of that money to take a look at what kind of tool do we want to use to get a better handle on what the incoming readiness of our children are as they're entering into kindergarten. So we used the money with the state of Ohio, who also received some funds, and we decided to partner together and create a new tool. We call the system R4K, Ready for Kindergarten system. We've done that in conjunction with Johns Hopkins Center for Technology and Education and our WestEd partner out in San Francisco with the item development.

I know, don't hit the label, hit the button, okay. The gentleman said, "You know, this should be pretty apparent," and I said, "Yeah, but, hmm. Not always." So you can see from this graphic that our system, our R4K system has a number of components, and what we worked on first was the kindergarten assessment. We decided to call it a Kindergarten Readiness Assessment because we felt we didn't want parents or stakeholders to misunderstand. This is not a high-stakes assessment in terms of children having to have something in place before they can enter into kindergarten because that's not at all what it is. It's just our kind of moment-in-time measure to find out what do children have coming into kindergarten, what does their learning trajectory look like, so that teachers can respond to that as well as the school system, the state and all of our stakeholders? You know, what do we respond to when we see the information we get about our children coming into kindergarten?

Another component of our system that actually; the kindergarten assessment we just put into place last year, 2014 - 15, and so we're currently in the midst of that happening right now. Our assessment covers four domains because we felt we couldn't do justice and have enough items to make it valid and reliable to cover all seven domains that we have in our early learning standards. So we do measure language and literacy, mathematics, how are physical well-being and motor development, and what we call social foundations, which is new in Maryland. In the past our Maryland model for school readiness looked at just the social-emotional skills and behaviors we wanted students to have, but we revised that. Now it also includes approaches to learning and executive function. So that's new for our teachers to start becoming familiar with that content and what does that mean, as others have said this morning? You know, giving them the capacity to know how to work with children to help develop that.

The assessment over the eight-week period is a combination of observational items. Teachers use observational rubrics. They have some performance tasks where you need to interact with the child on those items. You're reading a story to them. You're asking them questions. You're doing some math tasks. And we do have a small set of items that we've been able to develop on a technology platform that teachers have the option of using a tablet with an app that has about 17 of our items are on that, where the child directly interacts with the items, but it can also be done through a computer, through the paper kit with the manipulatives that we provide to teachers as well.

Now to get to the other domains we have been in development, and that's actually going to be rolling out this school year. We're starting to do training now for what we call our early learning assessment, and that component is a form of assessment where all seven domains are covered and there are items that teachers can use. It's not mandatory in Maryland like the kindergarten assessment is, but we are providing this to our childcare providers, our Head Starts, our pre-K and kindergarten teachers. Everyone has access to that tool. And that gives teachers the opportunity to look at that, where we've built them on learning progressions, look at where children are developmentally and find out what their trajectory looks like and gives them a better sense of where should my instruction be differentiated for that child.

So in the kindergarten assessment what we're hoping in the future is kindergarten teachers will also take advantage of that early learning assessment, so when they administer the kindergarten assessment and they find out where gaps are for children or where their trajectory is that then they'll toggle over into the early learning assessment and take advantage of finding out, "So I know they're not ready, but where exactly are they developmentally, and where should I be tailoring my instruction to meet the needs of all of the children in my class."

And you can see from the graphic, too, we have an online reporting system. Teachers, school systems, the state can look at a variety of reports to get the information that we have about children. We include all the demographic information that we disaggregate by even prior care. In Maryland when parents register for kindergarten, they also provide us information on where the child had their predominant care the year before so we can look at that as well.

So meeting the standards that we've now built a tool around, last year, well, I'll tell you. Traditionally we've been having children, and 13 years ago 40-some percent of the children were deemed ready for kindergarten. Over those 13 years it got to the point where we were I don't want to say stagnant, but we were seeing results around 82, 83 percent each year of the children being ready. We prepared our state, all our different stakeholders. It went out to all the school systems and said, you know, "This is a new set of standards. We're doing a reset. The results are probably going to look different," very similar to what states have been telling their stakeholders about PARCC results or Smarter Balance results, because they're based on different standards.

So we found our first year, this last year, that we had 47 percent of the children who we were calling demonstrating readiness. We break our results into three bands. We have children either demonstrating readiness, they're approaching readiness or they're emerging readiness. And the way we explain this to our stakeholders is we have groups of teachers from Ohio and Maryland got together and were part of a standards-setting process that we went through. We based this assessment on our pre-K standards from both states. So what we're saying is when children leave their four-year-old year, wherever that setting might be, and we would expect them, we would hope that they would have the majority of these standards in place that they can know and be able to do, when they come into kindergarten we're just getting a little moment-in-time measure of how are they doing based on those pre-K standards? Do they come to kindergarten being able to do what we would hope a child five-years-old coming into kindergarten could do in language and literacy, or in math or in social foundations. Those are the children we say are demonstrating their readiness, meaning they're ready to start working on kindergarten curriculum and instruction. They really don't need support. They're not going to need a lot of intervention to close the gap for them. So that's what we tell teachers. It is not a high-stakes assessment. It's not a reflection of the teacher. Although we gather prior care information, it's not that we're grading any program, because we don't collect the names of the programs anyway, just the type. We just want to know how children are progressing and where those gaps may be so that we can adjust our curriculum and instruction to meet the needs of those children. Our community stakeholders, we provide data booklets. It goes out publicly. Our state legislature wants to know, all of our early childhood stakeholders want to know, and, of course, the schools and the teachers and parents want to know how children are doing with that information.

Approaching readiness is just our group of students who they basically have what they should have learned through their four-year-old year, but there are still a few gaps maybe in a few standards, maybe in a domain that's not as strong as the others. And so those children the teacher knows from early in the school year those are children that I need to continue to pay attention to and differentiate my instruction for. Children in that emerging readiness band, there's a large gap, and we need to be very proactive and start looking at what we can do to help those children and provide them with those quality experiences they need to be able to close the gap. I did a tour of our school systems and all the school superintendents and what I told them was, "Up until now you've been very focused on your third grade state assessment scores, and what that means and how we can address those needs. You've had most of these children for probably five years. They came in pre-K to your school system. You've had them for five years. You need to really think about how to be more proactive and start addressing the needs of the children as they come into the school system, not five years later."

And so just to summarize, we use the kindergarten readiness data that we get from our tool at all different levels. So we provide information to our parents. We do a little four-page for them that says not only where the children were demonstrating readiness at what level, but also what can I do to help and how can I work with my school system? What are some things I could be doing? We provide information obviously for the teachers to look at their instruction and their pedagogy and how to develop the capacity to help those students. Our school systems look at the data. Our state looks at the data. And I can tell you for us it's been a very powerful set of data because it's enabled us to get the state legislature to provide funding for more pre-K programs for children. We have many of our local councils, our business partners, all looking at this information saying, "Okay, what can we do to change these trajectories for children?" So that's what Maryland is doing.

Janine Bacquie - And we'll welcome Dawn Kurtz.

Dawn Kurtz - Thank you. Greetings from the west coast. So I want to first say that I'm privileged to be here today on behalf of our CEO, Celia Ayala, who couldn't be here, and she's very disappointed because she was very much looking forward to being here, but I will do my best to fill in for her.

So at LAUP we're in sort of a unique position. We in LA County, I said this last night and there was a little bit of a gasp, or yesterday afternoon in the room. In LA County in any given year we have about 120,000 or more four-year-olds in our system and we have more than 80 school districts. So things, as you probably know, look a little bit different in LA. But LAUP is actually a nonprofit organization that serves children and early educators across the county, and we work in a mixed-delivery system supporting early education providers to help provide high-quality early education preschool services to more than 11,000 children each year. And we have partnered most recently with additional providers over the last couple of years through the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant. So we work with about, a network of about 600 providers across LA County each year, and that's just a drop in the bucket in terms of the early education providers, so just sort of keep that in mind.

We really are focused on advancing early education program quality by supporting the whole child and so it's encouraging to hear everyone speak today. And I'm going to do my best given the fact that she just said this gentleman is going to be telling me when I'm over time, to not repeat things that you've already heard and give you just a sort of look into how we do things in LA, and how we help to prepare teachers and early educators to be able to support children so that they can be successful, and also how we work with parents to help them put their children in circumstances that can help them to be successful.

And first and foremost in all the discussion about what do we mean by kindergarten readiness and that sort of thing, we just first at LAUP start by acknowledging that children who come into our programs come with a very diverse set of experiences, and they don't all come in at the same place, and they certainly aren't going to leave at the same place, so we keep that in mind. Because we work through a mixed-delivery system, we have programs that are Head Start programs. We have programs that benefit from state preschool resources and other funding sources. And so when we come in to work with programs, we do our best not to layer on another set of requirements and expectations, but blend in with the existing expectations and try and create situations where we can leverage the funding that the programs have, but not add additional requirements at the same time. Sometimes there's a few, but for the most part we work with providers to try and determine how best to utilize those funds in order to deliver the highest-quality supports and the highest-quality education for children.

So we've already talked about this, you already know this, this is just sort of the framework from which we start when we talk about general guidelines for how do we want to support programs and what are we trying to accomplish? And, again, for LAUP we're really talking about looking at it from the perspective of the whole child. And so because our programs have various funding sources, we don't mandate one specific curriculum, but we have a menu of curricula that we have approved that our programs can work with. And so we talk about in general what are the things that children need to be able to do in order to be, in order to have some success when they enter kindergarten. You know, talking about things in terms of having beginning concepts around alphabet and numbers, learning to be able to focus, as we've already talked about here today the importance of executive function, being able to interact with peers, regulating their own behaviors, and also having some knowledge and understanding about healthy behaviors and what that means in terms of moving forward and building upon that later on.

So really when we talk about how do we promote those types of skills, how do we build those types of skills, we really focus a lot on how can we work with teachers, and how do we provide professional development opportunities that will allow teachers to have mastery across subjects so that they're comfortable not just talking about literacy, because we know literacy is important, but it's not the only thing that's important. And I think that over the past several years we've focused so much on literacy that that has caused sort of an imbalance in teachers' comfort level in teaching other subjects and in understanding that you can be learning about a variety of different subjects at the same time that you're engaging in those playful learning experiences and that sort of thing. So really talking about how do we observe teachers in their environment when they're engaging with children and using assessments that can provide really meaningful feedback to teachers, not using it as a way to criticize what's happening in the classroom, but in looking for opportunities to build on what's happening in the classroom and help teachers develop even additional skills.

Because again we work with a mixed-delivery system and the teachers have all of these requirements, we're really focused on how do we take what is being used already and use that to further improve quality in the classroom. So our teachers use a variety of assessments, but most recently throughout Quality Rating and Improvement System work and Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, the two assessment tools that have been incorporated into our QRIS are the DRDP and the ASQ, and so we've spent a lot of time over the last few years making sure that teachers understand what those assessment tools are, how they can be utilized to inform instruction, and how they can be done in a way that will be beneficial to the child as they move through their preschool year.

The other thing that is extremely important to us, and I'm rushing because I see the little sign, is how do we engage parents, and this has been an area that we've spent a lot of time working on over the past several years. And we have really sort of embedded the Strengthening Families framework in the work that we do around parent and family engagement, and really want to work with families to make sure that they understand first and foremost just general concepts around early childhood development and what does it mean for a child to have a high-quality early education experience, and as a parent what should you expect when you bring your child into an early education setting? Our families come in from various backgrounds. Some of them have been in early education environments already. When they hit that four-year-old preschool experience, they've been in a formal setting. Some of them have been at home with mom, or grandma or an auntie and don't have any formal experience, and so we have to account for that. And so one way we can do that is engage parents around what are you supposed to be looking for in a high-quality preschool experience? And then we've done a lot of work over the last two years around giving parents tools about how they can engage their children and talk with their children in different ways. And so we had an opportunity to develop what we call our Take Time Talk Tool, and this is really based on all the research around talking, reading and singing to your child, and all of the wonderful programs that are out there that provide books for children. And so we were originally talking about how do we provide teachers with some guidelines and tools about what do you do during circle time, and how do you engage children in open-ended questions so that you are really pushing them a little bit in terms of critical thinking and concept development? And that then evolved into this tool that we developed for parents around taking time to ask questions, both when you're reading with your child, but in a variety of settings. And it really is sort of an equalizer for us because it's a way for parents to engage their children and it doesn't matter what the child's background is, what the parent's background is. You can ask questions in any environment. You can ask questions when you're at the laundromat. You can ask questions when you're on the bus. You can ask questions when you're reading a book. And so the idea is asking open-ended questions in a way that is going to engage the child in an ongoing dialogue.

And really the original; it originally started as a way to address the 30 million word gap, and we've gotten a lot of really great feedback from parents from very diverse backgrounds about how exciting it is for them to think about building their children's vocabulary, and they don't have to have any sort of background. They can just come into it cold, and we do a little bit of modeling for them. We did a program over the summer in libraries, so we know that that's sort of a captive audience where parents were bringing their children to the library for lunch over the summertime, and we had an opportunity to take 10 or 15 minutes, give them the tool and talk to them about the tool, and then over the course of six weeks they would come back and tell us about their experiences. So that's just sort of a little snapshot into some of the things that we try and do to help to build the capacity of teachers and parents in order to provide resources to build children's readiness for kindergarten. Thank you.

Janine Bacquie - Thank you. It's been a great panel. We have a few questions right now that I'll offer to the panel. Many early childhood educators are concerned about a growing tendency to push primary grade expectations down to earlier and earlier levels and the potential risk of eliminating play from early childhood programs. What is your response to this and how should early childhood practitioners respond? Who'd like to take that one?

Rosemarie Truglio - All right, I'll start. Play is the work of children and, Dorothy, I hope I'm not taking your line, but in our preparation you've talked about how we have to walk away from this false dichotomy, playing versus learning. Children are learning through play, but not all play is the same. Play is on a continuum, and there is free play, there's guided play and there's structured play. And what we know from research is that guided play, the role that adults play, parents and teachers, where you're using play around a particular intentional teaching moment, but what's said is that most adults don't know how to do this very important type of play that we know that is associated with learning. And I think that as a profession we have to stop saying certain things like, "Do this," and, "Do that." We have to begin to show, model what does it look like, because what happens sometimes is that children, if left by themselves, they do really well with guided play. And then the adult comes in and kind of mucks it up because we then co-opt their play and take it over. And then what happens then is that you have a very passive child and we know that children don't learn when it's a passive experience. It has to be an active experience. It has to be a dynamic experience. So when we talk about play and getting play back in children's worlds both at home and at school, we have to be very much more specific about the kind of play that we think is optimal to optimize their learning.

Dorothy Strickland - Just to add that the notion of what is teaching or instruction very often is this transfer of knowledge or transfer of information. So unless you're standing there doing, or sitting as I am, you know, spewing forth and then expecting to get it back, then it's not the real thing. So much of what goes on, kind of messing around sometimes in a center, which is playful, and a reenactment sometimes of some of the things that you've done, if you've done some interesting things, it's playful. It's fun. And especially with pairs. Children love to do this together and there's a lot of interaction. One of the things that just about all the standards, and I think most of the people in here have reviewed standards for various states, they talk about, although they may not use this word, explanations. But just asking, "Tell me about what you're doing," great. It's great for speaking. It's great for reflection and it's talk, but without that kind of talk, that explanation, you're not going to get the constructed responses that they are required to do later on, or they've got to write something and explain something. This, if we're talking about readiness, which sometimes I don't even like that word because it means sometimes levels and I don't like to think that way all the time, but these are all important learning experiences in the classroom or anywhere.

Janine Bacquie - Thank you. We've heard about one state's approach to responding to variances in developmental levels as they measure the school readiness skills of a diverse set of children, including differences in language, abilities, culture and socioeconomic status. What might other approaches consist of? Or what additional factors of consideration might that discussion include?

Dawn Kurtz - Well, I would just say that especially in Los Angeles it's extremely important for us to think about the diversity in the workforce because it's not just the diversity of the children that we're serving. And so LAUP oversees a very large ECE workforce consortium, and one of the things that we are constantly talking about is how do we make sure that we recruit and train a workforce that is reflective of the children that are being served? Because that is sometimes, you know, one of the biggest problems is that children don't have sort of the person that is reflective of them. I think someone on the earlier panel talked about it a little bit. And then because we send assessors in to do observational assessments in the classroom, diversity and cultural sensitivity is a huge issue because what may be perceived as fundamentally inappropriate interactions to one observer may be something that's completely culturally appropriate in certain situations. And so we need to think about that because that assessment data is then being used to inform planning and practice.

Janine Bacquie - Thank you. Would anyone like to add to that?

Judith Walker - Well, I'd just like to add I just recently heard one of our school system superintendents talk about this new idea that they have for their school system that's pretty innovative. They have partnered with one of the colleges in Maryland to create the opportunity for high school students who reflect all those different diverse backgrounds because they want to build that diverse workforce. So they've offered to this group of high school students the opportunity to go to that college for four years for free. The school system is picking up the cost of the tuition. They are providing them an internship opportunity back in the school system that's paid during the summer. Just the stipulation is that they will commit to coming back to that school system and teaching in there for three years. So there are ideas out there to try to build that diversity because as we all know many of our children never see anyone who looks like them or who has been through poverty, and it's hard for a teacher to understand how to differentiate instruction for those children if they've never experienced it themselves.

Dorothy Strickland - I just want to add one thing that really concerns me a great deal and that is respect for the diversity within groups. I hear teachers very often, "Oh, well, Latino children this, and the African-American this and the White children." You don't … a lot of diversity within the group. So just don't look at somebody and assign characteristics to them. These are good people. Again, they're well-meaning people who are doing this. But it's especially problematic when you're dealing with young children, and you have so much control over their lives and you come with all this baggage about who they are and what the expectations should be for them. Thank you.

Janine Bacquie - Thank you. Well said. Well said. And our last question. How might non school-based programs such as childcare be engaged in the work of preparing young children for kindergarten and measuring the school readiness skills of their preschoolers?

Judith Walker - Well, just to piggyback on what I said when I was describing our assessment tool, in conjunction with that we have developed in Maryland early learning standards that go from birth through grade two so that we're all sharing the same set of standards, no matter at what age you're working with children. We just finished putting out a new Guide to Pedagogy for Maryland that is written for all stakeholders. So we're hoping by having more shared resources that we're all talking about children in the same way and have common understandings of how to work with children.

Rosemarie Truglio - I just want to add that we talked a little bit about this last night, and to quote Jacqueline Jones' wonderful keynote remarks, we really have to give attention to the education and preparation, especially for childcare providers. We really have to ground them in developmental psychology so to speak. How do children learn? What are the developmental progressions? We tend to focus a lot on content, you know, objective standards. But we can't forget the child. So where are they as a three-year-old? Not all three-year-olds are alike either. There's diversity within a particular age. We have to be better at showing them instead of saying – once again, I said this before – "You must, you should." Well, what does it look like? Let's show them. And we have to really give them a better understanding that it's not just the academic skills, although they are very important, I'm not underestimating them, but we are undervaluing critical thinking, and what does that look like and how do we help them be better thinkers? Because as we are preparing our future in terms of our future workforce, these are skills that employers are looking for. They're looking for thinking skills, innovative thinking, communication skills. We can look up facts now on our smartphones, but we have to be better problem solvers.

Janine Bacquie - Great, thank you. What a wonderful panel we've had here. Thank you very much. We have about 15 or 20 minutes set aside for some audience questions. So at this time if you have some questions will you please stand, and state your name and the organization, and somebody will come to you with a microphone if you'll just stand up. Thank you.

Joan Ganz - …Batista, Pre Prep, Joan Ganz Cooney Early Learning Program in South Bronx. Throughout the panel and, you know, outside research, we talk a lot about what we want teachers to teach, and I was, I would like to hear your thoughts about bringing to the conversation and the discussion the schools of education and the institutes for training teachers. A lot of times I see that teachers or schools of education are jumping on the trend. Like a lot of programs now are teaching the standards, so we get teachers coming out, learning what the standards are, but very little knowledge about who the child is, and what developmentally is happening, and how do we model the learning, incorporating the standards to these children? It's like the lack of understanding of who the child is is very obvious in a lot of teacher training and I was wondering if you could speak to the need and the urgent need from my perspective to bring the school of education into this conversation. One of the reasons is teachers having spent four years or five years, six years to get a master's and a certification become very resistant to something that is different from what they have been trained in their school of education, especially if they come from very prestigious schools. And then it becomes a challenge to bring them onboard to what the child is about or who the child is and the respect of who the child is at their developmental stages…. speak to that?

Dawn Kurtz - Well, I'll just start and say that someone on the earlier panel talked about the need for this sort of national set of standards and I couldn't agree more. I think part of the problem is that there is so much variation that trying to come up with a way to prepare teachers is very specific to where they're going to end up teaching, and obviously we can't predict that and so it makes it really difficult. But I think the other thing is that we have to do a better job of incorporating the sort of on-the-job practical learning experiences much earlier on in the process because we find in some of the institutes of higher education that we work with there is not an opportunity for the students to engage in hands-on work until much later in the program and you're losing a lot of real opportunity to help them develop those skills.

Judith Walker - And I just want to tag on to that that as we talk about teachers having an understanding of standards, it's also the pedagogy that we need to make sure they understand. They can have that understanding of what they're supposed to be helping children learn, but they need to know the best way and the most developmentally appropriate way to do that for children. The other stakeholder group that we seem to find in Maryland is as much an issue is the principals. And speaking as a former principal, many of my colleagues have unrealistic expectations for what the pedagogy, what the instruction should look like, even if the teachers will tell me, "I should be doing this. I should have learning centers. I should be helping children explore in a playful way, but my principal tells me I can't." And that's the National Association of Elementary School Principals is now working with a lot of organizations and they've put out their documents to try to address that, but we find that's as big an issue, that we have elementary principals who really don't understand what good practices should look like and prohibit teachers from doing what they know is right.

Mindy Riser - Thank you so much. My name is Mindy Riser. I'm a sociologist and I've evaluated education and training programs in different parts of the world. This is for Professor Dorothy Strickland. It's no news to us that the refugee crisis is inundating Europe and certainly challenges to the United States. Professor Strickland, you talked about the child encountering formal learning with everything he or she has experienced and I'd like you to talk about how we work with the refugee children, the children who are being born now in refugee camps in Turkey, and Lebanon and in areas near Hungary and they will be there for a while. How do we handle both their trauma and their need to learn about a broader world behind and beyond the walls of these refugee camps?

Dorothy Strickland - I am assuming that these are individual children that might be in a group with other children here in the United States. I think it would be different if I had a whole group of children who had similar experiences. But one of the things nevertheless would be give them time to talk about their experience. In this case it's a touchy issue because you want to give them time to talk, but you don't want to have all the other children to have to listen to that talk every single day. But that talk is important, even if it's one-to-one. During the time someone mentioned, maybe it was during standards, who had differentiated instruction. They didn't use that term. That's a term we use all the time – whole group, small group and one-to-one. Some time for one-to-one, sometimes even transcribing what they say and talking about it. They need an outlet. And I would also talk with parents about how they're handling it, so to let parents know that the school has empathy for the experiences of the child. That experience is so hard to fathom, quite frankly. I watch the news. I'm a news watcher and sometimes I wonder if I'm some kind of, I don't know, you know, I want to inflict harm on myself because you sit there, and tears are coming to your eyes and you want to do something. People in this room are the doers. You know what I mean. You want to do something. And it's hard to really understand what they've been through, but to let that child know that you're on his or her side, that you will listen, that even you will write down what they say, not necessarily to share with the whole group, but to share with them and to talk with their parents. Let them know they're welcome and they're safe.

Rosemarie Truglio - And if I could add, I would also look at their play patterns, their play behaviors. In the refugee camps these children don't have much of anything, but they will find whatever they can to play, to play with others around them or even to play by themselves, solitary play. But look at their play patterns because some of their thoughts and feelings are going to come through their play behaviors and so I would document that as well.

Janine Bacquie - Thank you. Additional questions?

Duane Little - Yes. My name is Duane Little. I'm the Executive Director of Children's STEM Academy and my question is for Miss Walker. In the literature that I've read it suggests that early childhood teachers and let's say K-through-3 teachers should share communication about let's say for instance what K-through-3 teachers are looking for in their students that come from pre-K. So they should share communication. They should also share professional development. Has Maryland thought about anything like that, begun anything like that? If so, what step in the process are you, and if not, why not?

Judith Walker - I can tell you that we now have an interim superintendent. Our state superintendent just recently left to take another opportunity in Ohio. But our interim superintendent has already started discussion about setting up a task force, a group to really take a look at that whole pre-K-to-3 years and what that should look like, and he has some pretty innovative thoughts on what he'd like to do as far as changing that whole part of our program for those-aged students, so it'll be interesting to see what that goes. We're always in discussion with teachers about collaboration, and those articulation meetings, and how to transition that information you know about a child from one teacher to the next. As part of the assessment system we've been developing, that's part of what's been built in. Unfortunately we didn't have enough money to take the system beyond 72 months, but our hope is that information helps teachers get a better picture about their children. The other thing we're really working on is down on the lower end and that's building the capacity of schools to talk with the childcare programs. And so as we've been; part of our pre-K expansion grant was to put money into programs that are in childcare centers and create the pre-K classrooms there, but they have to sign a memorandum of understanding with the school system and they have to plan to work together. They provide professional development together. They do all those articulation kinds of meetings that traditionally they've probably been doing some of that. But I know our childcare providers often will tell me, "I don't feel welcome in the school. They don't talk to me. They don't invite me to things," and we're really trying to break down all those silos.

Dorothy Strickland - I simply want to add to that that there are some models of professional development that require some time to be spent with that whole continuum as well as with specific grade levels. One of the nice things that happens with, especially we've got the pre-K right through 3rd grade, and you take a particular standard, and the way that, well, certainly Common Core has developed, but in others, in state standards where they have, a number of states where they come, they've removed themselves from the Common Core, but as somebody said earlier on, "What they do looks very much like a Common Core, their own draft." What they've done is they've taken these kind of large standards and then decided what they look like at different levels. So an example that I often use with pre-K in terms of finding a key idea and then supporting it with details from the text is you're reading a story, and you come to a point where you want to give a prediction prompt and you say, "What do you think will happen next?" And I might call on several people and then I'll just say to one of you, "Well, what made you think so?" Now you have to tell me. It's not what; I'm a grandmother and grandmothers do everything right. We know everything. But it's not what your grandmother said. I want information from the text, kiddo. And so you'll say, "Well, you said so-and-so," which means that's what you read, and so-and-so. So this child is taking information from the text to support that key idea, that statement, that claim is a term they use in the assessments, the claim that he or she made. There are lots of opportunities to provide learning experiences that speak to these broader standards at all levels, and it really does help for teachers at different levels to share what they are.

Janine Bacquie - Additional questions?

Adele Robinson - Hi. I'm Adele Robinson. I'm with the Office of Childcare here at HHS, and earlier we had Rachel Schumacher here, the director, who had to leave for another meeting, but thank you for including us. I was glad to finally hear some more talk about childcare because we're serving 1.4 million children every month through the Childcare Block Grant, and it's been a major frankly historic reauthorization that happened last year that we're trying to implement now where childcare providers are going to have to have professional development in all domains in their early learning standards, in very specialized social and emotional interventions for children with challenging behaviors as well as a slew of other quality activities. It's not just health and safety. They're also the most under resourced part of this field and they are the teachers where we haven't really raised expectations and provided professional development. So can you talk a little more, given that we have two-thirds of those 1.4 million children every month between the ages of birth to kindergarten, can you talk a little more about how do we extend beyond schools, beyond Head Start – you started to talk about this – the ability to have consistency in supporting teachers to be able to do this work?

Judith Walker - I'll add one more piece to what we've been doing in Maryland. The past several summers we created these early learning academies, and so we invited, we used principals in elementary schools as kind of the initial starting point, but they're invited to this day of professional development, and they have to bring a team with them, and the team has to consist of some staff from their school, but they also have to reach out to childcare programs that feed into their school. And they come as a team together, and spend a day of professional development together, but we're also trying to send the message to our principals that, "You need to be the leader of your community, and it's not just when the children and families get into your school building, but it's also the bigger community around you." So we're hoping in that way to also continue to build some relationships.

Dorothy Strickland - I might add that anything that you can do to provide examples of what say a standard means or what you might be looking for helps a great deal. We talk about these things, and we're policymakers primarily in this room, so that's very, very, you know, that's what's expected. But I used that little vignette, and there was someone else who used another vignette. It really does help to show and then to talk about other possibilities. People need to know what it looks like. And while there's no one way, if they get a sense of what it might look like, they can generate their own possibilities.

Rosemarie Truglio - And if I could just add to that, I think that's where technology can come in as an effective tool, to show, but also to bring communities together. Teachers want to learn from their fellow teachers. They want to see what they're doing and what it looks like. And I know there's a panel this afternoon, and I see Chip there standing in the corner and I know they'll be talking more about that, but I'm just putting it out there now. Yes, it's very important to come together on that professional development day, but it's a day, and we've got to figure out how to sustain it across 365 days. And technology can be an effective tool to show it, so that as Dorothy said, teachers are looking at children's behaviors, but are they seeing? And I'm never going to forget that, Dorothy, and thank you for that statement that you gave us yesterday. And I think that by showing, we can get them to move from looking to seeing.

Janine Bacquie - Thank you. An additional question?

Krista Scott - I'm Krista Scott with Child Care Aware of America. And Dr. Kurtz mentioned a little bit about health and wellness. Sorry, I'm over here in the corner. Dr. Kurtz mentioned health and wellness as well as developmental screening, and I was wondering if the panel could comment both on the impact and importance of health and wellness initiatives for kindergarten readiness, as well as the impact of universal developmental screening for kindergarten readiness.

Dawn Kurtz - So two very important but separate issues. We have been fortunate enough over the last few years to have a couple of different funding opportunities to engage providers and families in initiatives around health and wellness. And one of the things that we are involved with right now is called Choose Health Los Angeles, and that has provided us with an opportunity to outreach in specific communities and build awareness about healthy food choices, and also about, and to engage the community about creating environments where families have the opportunity to make healthy food choices. So our staff have actually gone into local markets and engaged the staff at those local markets to talk about how can we make pretty small but significant changes in those markets, and then they invite the community in and do demonstrations, cooking demonstrations and educational pieces about how you can make healthy choices and where those choices are available. And it's been really powerful because it's not only making something available, but letting families in the community know that it's available and know why it's important. And the next phase will be to engage those families in policy work around making sustainable changes with respect to health and wellness. And then the developmental screenings is extremely important, and although we were talking about it in the context of preschool, I would argue that it needs to be done much earlier and with much more frequency, and that's one of the things that we've been working on through the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant is making sure that providers who take care of infants and toddlers understand the importance of developmental screenings and are not just doing a developmental screening because it's something that's required of them, but that they actually understand what to do once they've completed that screening, and that they are tied to the resources in their community that they need so that parents can get the referrals that they need and that they actually are getting the services once that referral is made.

Rosemarie Truglio - And if I could add just in addition to healthy eating, you know, making sure that they have access to these healthy foods, but sleep is a really big issue. Children are coming to school tired, and if you're tired you can't learn. The other thing is oral hygiene. We also know that one of the reasons why children are missing school is because of dental issues, and so that's another, an important health component during the early years.

Dawn Kurtz - And I would just, sorry, just to chime in one more time, I think that's a really important point, because one of the things that we have tried to talk about with our funders and with our stakeholders across the county is how an early education setting provides this unique access to children and families in a way that can give them access not just to that educational experience, but when we're talking about the whole child giving them access to other resources related to health and wellness. And so we've been really fortunate to provide access to our families through the early education settings to things like health screenings, oral health screenings, vision screenings where we had an amazing number of children get screened and receive a free pair of glasses. And we went back and got, did interviews, and got tons of great information about the impact that having those glasses made on the child, and their ability to be in a classroom and pay attention and interact in a way that they hadn't been able to do before because there was no knowledge about the vision problem that they had.

Janine Bacquie - Next question?

Unidentified female speaker - I'm going to bring this back to the whole idea of achievement gaps. So Maryland presented an innovative comprehensive KEA. Not all states do that. And they can use KEAs in inappropriate ways. So how do we prevent KEAs being used as gatekeeper tools that set up the achievement gap for disadvantaged populations?

Judith Walker - Tell them no.

Janine Bacquie - I'll just say really the communication about the assessments, their purpose, remembering the purpose and why they're being used. If it's used as a tool to help, a formative tool to help the teacher or the childcare provider in the classroom to gain some information to communicate with parents about how you can collaborate with them to help move the child forward on a developmental continuum, but I think it really starts with the communication and the purpose. Why do we have this assessment? What is it used for? What are the unintended consequences that could happen if it's misused or it's not used in the right way? And I think there's a strong challenge to communicate to all the stakeholders, the lawmakers, the parents and everyone else that has a vested interest in the success of the child to really understand about that. And we don't want to say, "You're in and you're out." It's not really about that. How are we going to help to move all children forward? And we shouldn't be using it as something that's going to exclude children, or to classify children, or put them in a separate category or sort them. So I think it really starts with that communication and the purpose. And I heard some of my colleagues talk about the purpose and really talk about the thinking, so the adults have got to think as well about what we're doing and what our intention is, and be very purposeful in how we go about doing that, because there also is a lot of potential for bias, even when we set out with the best intentions at heart. We really have got to take a look at what we're doing and be very careful that it's not used in some way to be an exclusionary measure. A child is born. I come to kindergarten. I'm happy. I recall the face of many kindergarteners coming in on the first day. Many of them, you know, when I was a teacher had a range of experiences from really great top nursery programs. Maybe some had home or informal care, maybe some were in informal care situations where there were a lot of other children, but they all came in and they were excited. "I'm here. Are you going to greet me? Are you happy to see me? What do you have for me?" And that's really what they're expecting us to be ready for them, not to work to keep them out or to say, decide who they are in an instant when they come in the door. So the purpose and the communication I think are really critical.

Dorothy Strickland - I just want to add we haven't talked much about formative assessment, although it was mentioned I think in the standards panel briefly. To me that is where we're really going to bring together, and I should be at home right now finishing that article, linking standards, instruction and assessment, pulling them together, so we're not just talking about them in isolation. But when you have teachers who are well grounded in the standards that they are supposed to address and a sense of what they need to do to help children attain whatever it is that they're working toward, and they know how to teach in a way, they actually set up circumstances so that they can get a sense of who's getting it and who isn't. And not just how I can serve a particular child a little bit better because he or she isn't getting it, but what do I have to do in terms of my teaching to alter it? I don't know, Judy, if you're involved with the collaborative that North Carolina has set up, because I've been doing some consulting for them, and some of the things you say sound so much like what they're doing, which I think is great.

Judith Walker - I mean we've been in discussion, but North Carolina consortium is different than our consortium. So we do have a consortium. We started with Ohio. Connecticut is coming onboard. We have a handful of other states that are now inquiring and want some additional information.

Dorothy Strickland - The beauty of what they're doing is they are looking at goals or standards, but they are also developing these learning progressions. You know, what does it look like as children are progressing? It helps the teacher to have a guide of that sort, so the consulting that I've been doing is to really critique the learning progression. But as usual the consultant is learning so much more. It's so great. And to think that teachers read these things, discuss them and talk about it, they have some visual image of what it would, what a particular child might be doing and what it might mean. And the beauty of formative assessment is you take action in two ways. You're working with that child, but you're also thinking about what you're doing, your teaching and how you might alter that. I think formative assessment is just so very, very important, and it fits beautifully at all levels, but with young children it's just terrific.

Janine Bacquie - Thank you. That concludes our school readiness panel. Can we have a hand for our panelists here? We had a great dialogue.

End of Kindergarten Readiness video.

Video duration: 1:30:23