As the largest school district in the state, Gwinnett County Public Schools has more than 10,000 kindergartners enroll every year — more than the entire study body of most systems. With so many youngsters starting school at once, administrators came up with a method to make the process smoother.
In its second full year of implementation, the Kindergarten Readiness Entry Profile allows educators to assess what these new students know, what they have yet to learn, their level of socialization and a little about their personalities.
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“The profile works in two sections. Part one is pre-academics and communication,” said Kim Holland, director of early learning and school readiness. “We want to see what they know coming in.”
The second part deals more with social skills, such as how the children interact with each other and if they can sit still for several minutes.
“We want to get to know as much about the children as early as we can,” said Holland. “We want to know more than their names and background.”
For example, a child’s background may show that they didn’t attend pre-K, but that doesn’t mean they’re behind other students.
“Parents are great teachers,” said Holland. “We can’t look at a child’s background and assume certain things about them.”
Lily Alcantara, for example, was home schooled by a relative studying early childhood education and can already read some and knows all her numbers. She was at Baggett Elementary on the countywide kindergarten registration day with her mother, April Bridges.
“The process has been really easy,” said Bridges. “I think the assessment helps a lot. And I’m glad they wanted her to come along. It takes a lot of the mystery out of the first day.”
Like other schools in the district, Baggett has invited kids back to visit a kindergarten classroom and tour the school. There will also be an opportunity for bus riders to go through that process before the first day.
“Our goal is to meet the children where they are,” said Donna Cross, a kindergarten registration coordinator. The schools moved staff around from other duties on registration day to make sure there are enough people to help the parents.
“We wanted to avoid any backlogs,” said Holland.
Since kindergarten is the first time the school system gets to know most students, it uses a sophisticated formula that takes into consideration new housing and existing enrollment to project how many children will be entering kindergarten.
“The projections are pretty accurate,” said Holland. “We might expect 150 kindergartners and actually get 145 or 155 — but not 200.”
For parents who missed the May 3 event, it’s not too late to enroll kindergartners, or any new students, for the fall. Holland encourages parents to go to the school’s website, fill out forms and gather other necessary documents such as immunization records and look for dates the school is accepting applications.
She stressed that the sooner the child is in the system, the smoother the transition for everyone.