by Melody Hobson, Administrator, Office of Early Childhood Education (Nebraska Department of Education)
The transition from an early childhood program into kindergarten is one of the most important and meaningful transitions a child and their family can make. Research indicates that high-quality transition practices can result in greater learning, and more secure children. This can only be done when the programs sending children to kindergarten and the elementary school work together. The most basic step for early childhood programs and elementary schools to collaborate is to create and implement agreements that spell out the transition practices.
The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) hosted Agents of Change for Equity: A Virtual Conference Experience, on Wednesday, July 31. As a part of this conference, the Nebraska Head Start Collaboration Office led a session on creating transition agreements. Using the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as a framework to plan high-quality transition practices, a diverse panel of early childhood practitioners met. They discussed strategies to meet requirements and ensure smooth transitions for young children as they take that important step of entering kindergarten.
The panel consisted of:
- Beth Wooster – NDE, Title 1 Director and Assistant Administrator
- Amy Bornemeier – Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, VP Early Childhood Programs (Sixpence and Communities for Kids)
- Kristy Feden – Nebraska Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) Regional Facilitator
- Jean Ubbelohde – Millard Public Schools
- Joan Luebbers – NDE, Head Start Collaboration Office Director
The group discussed the following pertinent ESSA regulations.
The Every Student Succeeds Act, Section 1119(a) and (b), requires public schools receiving Title I funds – regardless if they have a preschool program or use Title 1 fund in the preschool program – to “develop transition agreements” with Head Start programs and, if feasible, other early childhood development programs in the community. Transition agreement activities should increase coordination between the local educational agency and the Head Start program serving children who will attend the schools of the local educational agency, including:
1) developing and implementing a systematic procedure for receiving records regarding children transferred with parental consent from a Head Start program or another early childhood education program;
(2) establishing channels of communication between school staff and their counterparts (including teachers, social workers, and health staff) in such Head Start agencies or other early childhood education programs, as appropriate, to facilitate coordination of programs;
(3) conducting meetings involving parents, kindergarten or elementary school teachers, and Head Start teachers (or teachers from other early childhood education programs) to discuss the developmental and other needs of individual children;
(4) organizing and participating in joint transition-related training of school staff, Head Start program staff, and, where appropriate, other early childhood education program staff; and
(5) linking the educational services provided by such local educational agency with the services provided by local Head Start agencies.
Examples and resources of transition agreements between local educational agencies and Head Start programs were provided.