High-Fives All Around

TSS, Readiness Coalition participants recognized for support of early childhood projects

The New Year has delivered new energy to early childhood education efforts, including the Summit County Transition Skills Summary (TSS).

More than 170 individuals attended the TSS Kick-Off, “Bridging Early Childhood and Kindergarten in Your Community,” on Thursday, Jan. 19 at the Akron Civic Theatre. While the event’s brief presentation reviewed the value of the TSS and its successes in Summit County schools, the main purpose of the kick-off was to celebrate the preschools involved, in addition to their kindergarten-level partners.

2017 TSS Kick-Off attendees

SEI’s Research Associate Cristina González Alcalá prompts TSS Kick-Off attendees to high-five one another for being involved with the Summit County TSS.

“We were excited to see so many enthusiastic individuals participate in our event,” says Laura DiCola, Summit Education Initiative (SEI)’s early childhood strategy leader. “Our hope, along with Child Care Connection, State Support Team Region 8, Summit County First Things First and Summit Educational Service Center, is for this event and resulting conversations to encourage more preschools to register to administer the 2017 TSS.”

In 2016, 110 sites (representing 2,429 students in Summit County), participated in the TSS. While these numbers have greatly increased since 2012, potential remains for others to become involved.

During the kick-off, attendees heard a brief history of the TSS from Derran Wimer, SEI’s executive director, as well as an explanation of why it matters. Representatives from partner organizations also greeted attendees to discuss their roles within the TSS process. 

Before SEI Research Associate Cristina González Alcalá wrapped up the presentation by reminding preschool directors to register for the TSS and by awarding several raffle prizes, DiCola distributed checks to districts whose preschool and kindergarten representatives have decided to develop Readiness Coalitions.

“A Readiness Coalition is a group of individuals who meet regularly to improve kindergarten readiness and elementary reading for students in a specific community or school district,” DiCola says. “The goal is to connect district elementary schools, preschools, libraries, community partners and others to align the community-wide efforts behind early learning success.”

Joining the Conversation

Beth Harrington, principal of Woodridge Primary School, aims for 100 percent TSS participation within the Woodridge Local School District.

So far, the district is about halfway there.

“Before this school year, I had been somewhat familiar with the TSS and the parent reports I received,” Harrington says. “But when Joel Morgan, principal of Woodridge High School, addressed administrators at our opening retreat with examples of SEI’s work in the post-secondary world, I decided our staff could become more engaged with the projects they support for the other side of the spectrum.”

Summit County Readiness Coalition representatives

During the TSS Kick-Off, Summit County Readiness Coalition leaders accept $500 checks from Summit Education Initiative to contribute to early childhood efforts in their communities. Woodridge Local Schools’ Beth Harrington, principal of Woodridge Primary School, is pictured second from right, and Superintendent Walter Davis is pictured far right.

After meeting with Child Care Connection and State Support Team Region 8 to better understand their role in the impact of the TSS and preschool programs in Summit County, Harrington felt encouraged and welcome to keep the conversation going.

“Connections started forming once we dedicated time to visit the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority program at Honey Locust Gardens,” Harrington says. “The kids were so excited to see us; our visits were meaningful to them but also to their families and teachers.”

From there, one of the first Readiness Coalitions in Summit County formed.

Harrington held Woodridge’s first Readiness Coalition meeting on Jan. 11. Two-thirds of the 12 preschools and daycare centers within the district attended – which is a great start.

“The preschool representatives who attended the meeting visited all six kindergarten classrooms at Woodridge Primary; I wanted them to have exposure to the rigor of what is expected in kindergarten,” Harrington says.

While Woodridge Primary’s kindergarten classrooms heavily focus on academics in the morning, time for playful activities occupies the afternoon.

“Play is important to us, too,” Harrington says, adding the Readiness Coalition meeting allowed her to show preschool representatives what that looks like at the kindergarten level.

Next Steps

early childhood representatives from Woodridge

Beth Harrington leads an early childhood meeting of preschool directors and SPARK representatives to kick-off her outreach efforts in the Woodridge Local School District.

Based on attendees’ observations and dialogue during their first Readiness Coalition meeting together, Harrington is optimistic about the future of early childhood efforts in Woodridge.

“I plan on inviting the preschools to our upcoming kindergarten information night,” Harrington says. She also hopes to encourage more preschools within her district to register for the TSS.

 “We see a high deficit in literacy, as well as social emotional skills, once students arrive to kindergarten,” Harrington says. “We want more of our students to be set-up for success before they enter kindergarten, but instead of being reactive, we should front-load parents with educational materials they can use from birth.”

Harrington suggests inviting hospitals and community organizations to become involved and help work toward a common goal.

She adds, “We need to focus our resources and give our children the best chance possible for academic success.”