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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Survey Of Springfield Kindergarten Teachers Finds 26.1 Percent of Kids Weren't Ready For School

Michele Skalicky

New survey results in Springfield are out on kindergarten readiness.  The survey, by the Mayor’s Commission for Children, is done every four years.  A total of 435 surveys were completed by Springfield Public School teachers for a 93.5 percent response rate.  Results showed that, in 2018, 26.1 percent of kindergartners were perceived by their teachers as not prepared to start school.

Of those, 46.4 percent were from low-income families as opposed to 15.6 percent who weren’t. 

“These results do highlight the need to prepare children for kindergarten by providing access to high quality preschool/pre-K education, and it appears that this is especially important for those children who are limited or have fewer financial resources,” said Dr. Melissa Falone, with the Missouri State University Dixon Center for Research and Service, which crunched the numbers.

Other findings:  51.1 percent of students who didn't attend a formal preschool were perceived by teachers as not ready as opposed to 17.8 percent of those who did.  And 31.1 percent of boys were reported as not ready for kindergarten while 21.1 precent of girls were reported as not ready.

Michelle Pickett, a kindergarten teacher at Cowden Elementary said readiness is about more than knowing things like A, B, Cs and numbers.  Also important are "peer collaboration, just being able to work with groups without fighting and arguing and just knowing how  to communicate with the other kids in their class," said Pickett.

Brigitte Marrs, executive director of the Mayor’s Commission for Children, said she expects results of the next survey to reflect the planned expansion of the Wonder Years pre-K program.

“The program that just started this year at Campbell added 200 more slots.  (The district will) add 200 more for the next two years, so, therefore, when we see that expansion fully represented, we’re hoping that we see more children ready for kindergarten once they access pre-K programs,” said Marrs.

The recently-passed bond issue for Springfield Public Schools includes an early childhood education center in southwest Springfield to serve around 250 students and an early childhood mini hub at Williams Elementary to serve 100 students.  The new Boyd Elementary building will also include preschool classroom space.  According to SPS, the district plans to serve more than 1000 four-year-olds by 2020-2021.