With the temperature dropping and Winter Break looming, we are entering prime time for parents – particularly parents of pre-kindergarten aged children – to explore and make decisions about schooling. With this age in particular, these conversations typically focus on two important ideas: “readiness” and “fit”. With regard to “fit” the research is clear: the most important factor in determining a child’s future academic success isn’t the school, but the fit between the child and the school.
“Readiness,” however, is more slippery.
Young children’s development is irregular and episodic, and difficult to accurately assess, particularly using conventional tests at a single point in time. Their performance is highly susceptible to immediate and transitory circumstances and can also be affected by physical health, nutrition, and living conditions. Over time, these contextual factors may also affect their knowledge, skills, and behavior. Children’s pre-kindergarten experiences are highly unequal, whether in the home and community or in preschool programs. Thus, the “supply” of readiness skills children bring to kindergarten varies widely. However, the impact of these variations depends on the demands that kindergarten and grade one place on children, and these also are variable. There is a lack of agreement regarding the implicit and explicit demands of teachers, schools, provincial standards, and readiness tests. Children who are seen as ready in one classroom or community—whether the result of a cutoff date or specific assessment—may not be similarly viewed elsewhere.
Let’s bring “fit” and “readiness” together. A definition of readiness must encompass what is “good enough” in each domain, while recognizing the unevenness of early development. Every child need not meet the highest readiness standard in every domain, and a distribution of abilities is to be expected. Despite our best efforts, some children will be less well-prepared than others. By carefully defining readiness in terms of expectations for children and schools, it may be possible to improve the preparation of both, and create a much better match between children and schools so that more children succeed and maximize their learning during the kindergarten and grade one years.
That’s why it is so important for parents to really get the feel of the different schools they are considering for their child(ren).
Here at the Ottawa Jewish Community School, we are excited to think about all the wonderful new faces we are meeting and will be meeting as parents go about their due diligence to discover which is the right school for their child(ren). We are always honored to be included in the search and we are confident that for many children, we will be that right choice – that best fit. We are confident that no one will know your child better than us and no one will be better able to ensure that there truly will be a floor, but no ceiling for your child.