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Effective Transitions to Enhance School Readiness. Why is early school success so important?. Early school years are a “ critical period ” for learning and development Preschool and early experiences enhance school success

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why is early school success so important
Why is early school success so important?
  • Early school years are a “critical period” for learning and development
  • Preschool and early experiences enhance school success
  • How quickly children adjust across settings increases their success – so supporting success across the transition is important
transitions across the lifespan
Transitions Across the Lifespan
  • Becoming a new parent
  • Going to (or back to) college
  • Moving to a new town
  • Starting a new job
  • Experiencing an empty nest
  • Retirement from a career
  • Getting married
elements to foster successful adjustment
Elements to foster successful adjustment
  • Information
  • Relationships
  • Alignment

Successful Adjustment

what do we know about transitions
What do we know about transitions?

What we know from research and practice about:

  • Children’s adjustment to kindergarten
  • The transition experiences and its effects on children
  • “Best practice” model of transition
teachers who say half my class or more exhibit these problems entering kindergarten
Teachers who say“half my class or more” exhibit these problems entering kindergarten


Difficulty following directions


Lack of academic skills


Difficulty working independently

Difficulty working as part of a group


Problems with social skills


Difficulty communicating/

language problems








Rimm-Kaufman, Pianta & Cox, 2000







School readiness and transition:

When connections are the focus

Early Experiences







Rimm-Kaufman & Pianta, 2000

setting changes
Setting Changes

LaParo et al., 2009

transition experiences
Transition experiences

“His teacher called several days before school started; it was great and really made Nate feel great.”

“At the beginning I got her excited by talking about starting school six months before it started… it made the transition easy… Before school started I took her to the classroom to get her adjusted to it.”

“I am pleased… the teacher called after the first two days of school to say how well she was doing.”

transition experiences1
Transition experiences

“On a more personal level, my son spends eight hours a day with his teacher and his best friend. I want to know those people. I don’t want it to be a once-every-three-months-for-report-card thing. I want to have more interaction.”

“The teacher called the first week of school to say he is the biggest clown in the class.”

transition experiences2
Transition experiences

“The teacher called me the first week of school and said she should have been evaluated for Ritalin because she can’t teach her.”

“We weren’t sure about sending him, he may be too young. His teacher called to say he’s way behind and should go back to preschool.”

“I’m not happy with it… I sent in notes but got no response from the teacher… The first day of school I sent him with a dollar for lunch but he didn’t eat all day… something got mixed up. I tried again with a dollar the next day, but he didn’t eat that day either. He wet his pants. The teacher is young and she’s not very organized. I’m anxious about this year.”


Misalignments and Shifts in the Transition to Kindergarten

  • Changes in academic demands / curricula
  • Less family connection with school
  • Complexity of social environment (peers and adults)
  • Less time with teacher(s)
successful transition guiding principles
Successful Transition: Guiding Principles
  • It’s a process, not a program
  • Supportive relationships are resources for children
  • Different sets of relationships fit different needs – some are supportive, some informational
  • Connections serve as a bridge for child, family, and school across time and contexts

Transition connections

  • Child-school connections
  • Family-school connections
  • School-school connections
  • Community-school connections
child school connections
Child-School Connections
  • Goal: To foster children’sfamiliarity with the classroom setting and those people within it
    • Increased comfort and decreased anxiety
    • Building teacher-child relationships
    • Exposure to new setting prior to school starting
child perspective of kindergarten
Child perspective of kindergarten

Emily: . . . it's a big, big, big school and there's more kids. Because there's hundred and hundreds and hundreds. And there's kids that don't know each other's names. Everyone knows names here.

JS: Are you ready to go to kindergarten next year?

Marcy: Yeah.

JS: How do you know you're ready?

Marcy: Because I feel so happy.

Interviews by Jim Squires, Preschoolers Conversations about School Readiness

a school connecting with children
A school connecting with children
  • An example of how one school reached out to children to help create a successful transition



family school connections
Family-School Connections
  • Goal: To foster family collaboration and involvement with the school and the transition process
    • Share information about individual children
    • Get parents familiar with school routines
    • Become partners in the process

Transition activity












Had child visit a kindergarten classroom

Met with a kindergarten teacher

Met with the principal

Took a tour of the school

Talked with preschool staff about kindergarten

Visited the kindergarten classroom

Talked with parents of child’s new classmates

Participated in elementary school-wide activities

Attended a workshop for parents

Met with child’s anticipated kindergarten teacher

Attended an orientation to kindergarten

Child & family connections with school: Transition activities families found useful

% of families who used the activity and found it helpful

Pianta et al., 1999

school school connections
School-School Connections
  • GOAL: To provide children with stable high quality classroom experiences across time
    • Increase consistency for children across contexts through alignment of:
      • Routines
      • Curricula
      • Learning standards
      • Assessments

School-school connections:

Transition activities teachers found useful

school to school example early childhood professionals working together
School to school example: Early childhood professionals working together
  • Kindergarten, Head Start, and preschool teachers
  • Meet four times a year focusing on aligning experiences for children
  • Outcomes:
    • Increased participation in transition opportunities like K camp
      • Children, families, and teachers more prepared
    • Increased consistency between settings related to routines and expectations
      • Pre-k teachers felt their knowledge of children and families was valued
      • K teachers felt children more socially and academically prepared
    • Increased awareness of the community needs for more spaces for children
      • An additional preschool class is being considered to be added to the elementary school

Smart Beginnings, 2011

community school connections
Community-School Connections
  • Goal: To facilitate the transition process within the community
    • Getting the word out
    • Providing resources where they are needed
community school connections1
Community-School Connections
  • Clarify community needs and expectations regarding schools and transition
  • Inter-agency connections with key players
  • Communicate information


preparation for parents
Preparation for parents
  • A public service announcement



preparation for parents1
Preparation for parents
  • The Health Science Channel helps prepare parents for the transition



kindergarten camps
Kindergarten camps
  • Child, family, school, and community, connections
    • Improved social adjustment to kindergarten
    • Improved familiarity with routines for kids with same teacher
    • Reading benefits

Berlin, Dunning & Dodge, 2010; Borman, Goetz & Dowling, 2009

transition experience matters
Transition Experience Matters
  • In the NCEDL project, more transition activities were associated with all of the following child outcomes at the beginning of kindergarten:
    • Greater frustration tolerance
    • Better social skills
    • Fewer conduct problems
    • Fewer learning problems
    • More positive approaches to learning
  • Transition activities were most helpful for children from disadvantaged families.

LoCasale-Crouch et al., 2008

effect of transition practices
Effect of Transition Practices
  • Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (Schulting, Malone & Dodge, 2005)
    • 17,212 children, 992 schools

Fall K Transition


Spring K Academic Skills


Even more for children from disadvantaged families

children families and schools benefit from connections
Children, Families and Schools Benefit from Connections
  • Children more socially ready
    • Helps them participate more academically
  • Families more connected to school
    • Improved long-term student outcomes
  • Teachers more prepared to support children/families
    • Better relationships that lead to enhanced child outcomes
  • Financially smart: Low investment, high yield
six steps to transition planning
Six steps to transition planning

1. Assess your partnership: Who is involved?

2. Identify the goals of the team around transition and alignment

3. Assess what is happening now

4. Identify data that you have to support these practices

  • Plan and Prioritize: Reevaluate goals, choose steps to take, assign roles, set deadlines, anticipate barriers
  • Implement and Evaluate
1 assessing your partnership
1. Assessing your partnership
  • Who is involved?
    • Teachers (pre-k and kindergarten)
    • School leaders (pre-k and kindergarten)
    • Family representative(s)
    • Community leaders
2 identifying the goals of the team
2. Identifying the goals of the team
  • Choose several goals that fit your program’s needs
  • Examples:
    • Support children being ready for school
    • Help families know more about what they can do at home to help children be ready for school
    • Get community more involved with children
3 assessing what is happening now
3. Assessing what is happening now
  • Sort what you are currently doing into categories
    • What is fostering child-school connections?
    • What is fostering family-school connections?
    • What is fostering school-school connections?
    • What is fostering community-school connections?
4 examining data you have
4. Examining data you have
  • Is what you’re currently doing working? How do you know?
    • Are children adjusting to kindergarten better because their preschool teacher is reading books about kindergarten before they enter?
    • Are more families registering early for kindergarten because of community efforts to disseminate information?
    • Are kindergarten teachers better informed about students because of school-school collaboration?
5 planning and prioritizing
5. Planning and Prioritizing
  • What are the next steps to take?
    • Reevaluate goals and formulate new ones
    • Plan steps to address new goals
  • Who is responsible for tasks?
    • Assign roles within the transition team
  • When should tasks be implemented?
    • Set deadlines for tasks and create a timeline
  • Anticipate barriers and make plans to overcome them
timeline example






Family group


Inform parents about home literacy


Research locations for K-camp

K-camp fundraising

PS & K teachers

transition efforts

Class lists for K

Preschoolers visit K

K-camp fundraising

Use community

resources to spread info about K-camp

Remind parents of home literacy


School playground


K-camp enrollment

Open houses

K teacher and

parents meet

K screenings




Foster family


w/ teachers

Timeline example




6 implementing and evaluating
6. Implementing and Evaluating
  • Implement the plan you have created
  • Evaluate: Is what you are doing working?

How do you know?

    • Examine data on newly implemented practices – do you see changes?
    • Modify practices as needed and define new goals
resources on the web
Resources on the Web

National Head Start Association – “Terrific Transitions”


Enhancing the Transition to Kindergarten: Linking Children, Families & Schools


Easing the Transition from Pre-k to Kindergarten: What Schools and Families Can do to Address Child Readiness


Durham County’s Transition to Kindergarten Initiative


Families as Primary Partners in their Child’s Development & School Readiness


What is Family Support?


Back to School Time: Tips to Help Children Adjust


NECTC Transition Tips: Toolkit of Practices and Strategies


Florida’s Transition Project



This document was prepared under Grant #90HC0002 for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start, by the National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning.