Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

"We Gonna Get on the Same Page:" School Readiness Perspectives from Preschool Teachers, Kindergarten Teachers, and Low-Income, African American Mothers of Preschoolers

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

"We Gonna Get on the Same Page:" School Readiness Perspectives from Preschool Teachers, Kindergarten Teachers, and Low-Income, African American Mothers of Preschoolers

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Program has refocused attention on the school readiness of young children (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). School readiness refers to the competencies that children need for kindergarten (Snow, 2006). Research documents that low-income African American children are disproportionately at risk for being unready for kindergarten relative to White children (Lee et al., 2008; Marcella, Howes, & Fuligni, 2014), lacking critical early reading, writing, and language skills (Child Trends, 2013; Welsh et al.2010). Three contexts are critical to children's successful transition to kindergarten: (a) the preschool, (b) kindergarten, and (c) the family. Research finds that children fare better when schools and families (parents) hold common school readiness beliefs. Yet, preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, and low-income African American parents (overwhelmingly mothers) often hold different beliefs about the skills that children should possess (Barbarin et al., 2008; Hains et al., 1989). Such misalignments are associated with problems in children's kindergarten adjustment (Abry et al., 2015; Foulks & Morrow, 1989).

School Readiness Beliefs across Multiple Contexts

Much of the comparative research documents misalignment in school readiness beliefs across family, preschool, and kindergarten settings, and the factors that are associated with this misalignment.

Preschool and kindergarten. In a study of Head Start and kindergarten teachers, researchers reported that both groups believed that compliance with teacher directives were important for child school readiness. However, kindergarten teachers, unlike Head Start teachers, believed that successful children flexibly adjusted to changes in instruction and participated in class activities (Foulks & Morrow, 1989). These differences were attributed to variations in teacher training and philosophy and, consequently, hindered children's adjustment to kindergarten (Hains et al., 1989). In response to parental pressures, preschool teachers, unlike kindergarten teachers, highly valued academic skills and had higher expectations of children (Hains et al., 1989). Abry and her colleagues (2015) also found that preschool teachers stressed academic skills more than kindergarten teachers, although both valued academic and interpersonal skills. In this instance, misalignment derived from teacher miscommunication, which was associated with worse student outcomes in kindergarten.

Preschool and parents. Research with White kindergarten teachers and ethnically and economically diverse parents revealed that both groups viewed socio-emotional skills as important (Knudsen-Lindauer & Harris, 1989). However, mothers ranked academic skills higher than teachers. Lack of communication limited areas of agreement. Head Start teachers and parents believed that child literacy skills were markers of school readiness, although they differed on the importance of child selfhelp skills (Hatcher, Nuner, & Paulsel, 2012). Education (parent, teacher), years of experience (teacher), and knowledge of local kindergarten practices (parent, teacher) impacted areas of alignment.

Preschool, kindergarten, and parents. Studies with preschool and kindergarten teachers and parents from ethnically diverse and low-income families report dissimilar findings. Teachers and parents valued effective communication and enthusiasm (Harradine & Clifford, 1996). Parents and child care providers ranked academic knowledge higher than kindergarten teachers. Varying interpretations of school readiness accounted for areas of misalignment. Grace and Brandt (2005) found that teachers and parents believed that socio-emotional abilities, communication, self-help skills, and learning approaches were critical. However, preschool teachers stressed social development, kindergarten teachers emphasized school-related behaviors, and parents stressed general knowledge. …

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