By Greg Bird
McCreary County schools pre-school students ranked seventh in the state when it comes to being ready for kindergarten according to data released by the Kentucky Department of Education.
The study, part of the annual report on kindergarten readiness, shows more than two thirds of McCreary students participating in the District’s pre-school program showed positive development in several key areas that indicate potential for success in kindergarten and beyond.
Of 173 school districts in the Commonwealth, McCreary County ranked in the top 10, just behind Monroe and Hickman counties. The state’s top district was Augusta Independent, which showed a 92.3 percent readiness.
Of 132 preschoolers in the School District tested in the K Screen test last year 77.3 percent tested at the kindergarten ready level the data shows.
In all 218 children were tested in McCreary County in the screening, including students participating in Head Start, other child care services and home-schooled. Of that total the percentage fell to just 62.8 percent meeting kindergarten readiness.
Statewide nearly 42,000 students took the K Screen assessment, with 51.4 percent testing kindergarten ready.
McCreary County Schools Assistant Superintendent Aaron Anderson said the high ranking was the result of implementing new techniques and strategies over the past few years.
“We made some adjustments, and completely revamped what we are doing in the classroom,” he said. “The scores really reflect well on our students as well as the teachers and staff who have done a tremendous job.”
“The Board of Education members made the decision to move the preschool program out of the dilapidated facilities and into the schools,” he said. “During the summer of 2015 we met extensively with the Kentucky Department of Education and the Berea Regional Training Center, one of five early childhood training centers in Kentucky established to assist school districts in developing early childhood programs for children with special needs and economically at risk children.”
“Over the 2015-16 school year the entire program was restructured and we did see improvement in kindergarten readiness. However, in the 16-17 school year full implementation of the changes were completely in place, and as a result, we moved from 41.5 percent of our students who attended the District preschool program to 77.3 percent kindergarten ready.”
“Obviously, our goal is 100 percent, but we are pleased with the increase of our scores in just two years.”
Due to space constraints, Anderson said, the McCreary County School District only operates a part-time preschool system, with students attending classes two days each week. Due to the limited space, only students who qualify on economic and other factors are eligible to enroll each year. The District has space for four classrooms at Pine Knot Elementary and two at Whitley City Elementary. Anderson stated the long-range goal is to move to a full, four-day a week program that could accommodate all children of the county ages 3 to 5.
Anderson said being a part-time preschool makes the scores more impressive.
“Even though we have been able to make top 10 in the state, we are competing with other districts who are going four days,” he said. “That says a lot of what we are able to do.”
Anderson stated the District is working with other local agencies, such as Head Start, to share resources and help those students better make the leap in to kindergarten
The District’s push for a nickel tax earlier this summer included plans to build extra classroom space, which would have allowed for expanding the pre-school to a full-time basis and allowing all county children to participate.
“If we could ever get to full time, that would mean every single kid would come through our pre school program,” he said. “It would be a nice step to open that up county-wide.
According to the Kentucky Department of Education school readiness is defined as “a student entering school is ready to engage in and benefit from early learning experiences that best promote the student’s success.” The screen looked at individual student’s language development, physical development as well as academic and cognitive skills.