Guest Post by Kaila Weingarten, MS Ed

When I first attended a training and heard about having a school readiness action plan, I asked the presenter, “What would I include in that?”

He couldn’t enumerate exactly what to put in.

So over the next few weeks, I did my research and compiled a list. This became a wonderful loose-leaf resource to have. I used it to train new employees, to inform key policyholders on school readiness, and of course, to brag during our federal reviews.

Let’s review how you too can compile this important document, a requirement for Early Head Start and Head Start agencies.

If you have a mission or philosophy statement, it provides a nice start.

The number one item is your school readiness goals. Additionally, you should include a blurb of how these came about. Make sure to state who was involved in creating these goals. You’ll want to mention parents, board/policy council members, and anyone on your School Readiness Leadership Team. Talk about the thought processes behind your goals. Did you have specific community or cultural needs in mind? Make sure to mention how your goals align with your curriculum, assessment, Head Start Early Learning Framework, your state’s early learning guidelines, and the expectations of the local schools.

Another aspect to discuss is how your program combines school readiness and the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (PFCE) Framework. The Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (PFCE) Framework is the guide used to promote family engagement in school readiness and includes the child outcome, “Children are ready for school and sustain development and learning gains through third grade.” In order to get to the child outcome, there are seven Family Engagement Outcomes for the program to consider. An example of how we meet outcomes in our program would be the weekly school readiness activities that are based on curriculum and sent home to parents. Get more family engagement ideas from the book Partnering with Parents.

Your action plan is also a great place to keep your school readiness status update as the years go by. This update is how you apprise your policy council, board, and community three times a year, after you’ve analyzed your data.

Of course, you’ll want to write a curriculum overview. Explain your curriculum. Be sure to include any secondary curriculum such as a literacy curriculum, social-emotional curriculum, or home-based curriculum. A good place to get an overview may be through the curriculum website or resource book. Describe how you implement the curriculum and how you ensure it’s done right. Do you observe classrooms or train teachers?

What tool do you use for ongoing child assessment? How do you use it? Be sure to include your timeline for completing, aggregating, and analyzing assessments. According to Head Start regulations, this must be done at least three times a year. What are your systems for data aggregation? What reports do you analyze? A comprehensive list will create a complete picture of what you do.

Write about how you provide professional development for staff, in relation to school readiness. How are your management systems involved with school readiness? How do you train them and inform them of updates and changes? How do you train new personnel?

Let’s not forget about individualizing. How do you individualize for children? Do teachers write goals for children that are based on the assessment and/or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)?

Transition is a hot topic. How and where do children transition to? If you are an Early Head Start agency, do children automatically transition to Head Start? What’s your plan for ensuring a smooth transition process? Who directs the transition process? What services, placements, or supports does the family want for their child after the Early Head Start program? How does your program help the family decide on a place that will be best for the child? How are you trying to create seamless services for all of the Early Head Start/Head Start families in your program? How do you keep in touch with local communities and schools to ensure that your school readiness goals match their requirements?

In our program, the parent coordinator contacts parents six months prior to the child’s birthday to discuss transition. They talk about possible options that would meet the child’s developmental needs. We then walk parents through the process of applying to their preferred school. We have children visit a Head Start/kindergarten classroom and meet the teacher. They can also take a tour of the school. Teachers talk to the children about the transition. In addition, we meet with local schools to talk about how to best help the families. We also hold workshops on transitioning for parents, to help them understand how to get children ready for school. All of these aspects help create a smooth transition process.

Have you figured out what tool to use for teacher-child interactions? What do you use to measure this?  Are you using tools such as the CLASS, ITERS, or ECERS? Have you checked any of them out?

You’ll also want to add your state’s early learning guidelines, additional websites and/or books you reference to, and any curriculum sheet that’s helpful in understanding your school readiness system.

Good luck in creating this resource!