Readiness for kindergarten is a predictor of school success in later years. So how do we provide a positive start for our youngest students? The Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), helps ensure that children in Washington have a smooth transition into kindergarten.

Said Marianne Thompson, executive director of teaching and learning, “Through early family connections, parent-teacher conferences and a greater understanding of strengths in key areas, classroom teachers are able to provide a learning environment that supports and encourages the development of the whole child during that first, very important year of school.”

“Washington state learning standards, High School and Beyond Plans and on-time graduation all begin with readiness to learn,” said Layne Manning, curriculum director. “The work underway is comprehensive and transformative, and Early Learning Specialist Chrissy Free brings passion to the work. Her leadership and support for our teachers have brought new energy and new practices throughout the district.”

WaKIDS is a way to:
• Welcome families to school by having teachers meet with them one-on-one before or just after the school year begins,
• Learn about students’ strengths through an observational assessment in the first seven weeks of school,
• Share information with pre-kindergarten communities that will help improve the transition for students and families into kindergarten.

The growing source of data as a result of WaKIDS helps teachers tailor instruction to the needs of individual students, begin meaningful conversations in communities to prioritize next steps and help inform state-level decisions about education policy and investments. This year, kindergarten teachers, community early learning providers and families are all working together to provide the best possible start for the district’s 1,522 kindergarten students.

The work is a credit to VPS’ 93 kindergarten teachers, but the effort involves principals, literacy facilitators, counselors, psychologists, P.E. and creative movement teachers, occupational and physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, learning assistance providers and assessment staff.

“It’s truly a team effort in Vancouver Public Schools,” said Free. “This is not just kindergarten teachers working on this. We have provided professional development and we continue to collaborate with all areas within our district.”

Photo: Washington kindergarten teacher Jenny Brown and her students