The overall academic success of preschoolers is increasingly tied to social and emotional preparation. Under the current assessment process, the director of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, says there are no good measurements. Terry Tolan says simply emphasizing language, reading, and motor skills isn’t enough.
“When you hear that 28 percent of our kids look ready at kindergarten entry, that’s only the cognitive domain, it does not include those other domains,” said Tolan.
Tolan believes not enough attention is given to the different ways children learn. Some pre-schools have a heavy emphasis on academics, but Tolan believes there are better ways to prepare young students for the classroom.
“The work of preschool aged children is play. It’s not drilling for, it’s not flashcards with letters of the alphabet, but it is the everyday play and exploration of the world around them that makes them ready for kindergarten,” added Tolan.
The first day of kindergarten is often the first time many Kentucky children enter a classroom. That puts a great deal of the burden for preparation on parents’ shoulders.
“Half of our children in Kentucky are not in organized early childhood settings, so that emotional social development is happening at home and our office is working closely with local childhood councils to do outreach with families who may or may not be in an early childhood program,” said Tolan.
About a quarter of the money collected by the state through the tobacco settlement goes into early childhood education. Tolan says that pool of money is shrinking and long term funding is needed.