Effective Practices : Enrollment
Transitions from Kindergarten to Grade One
Enrollment Section 3
1. Which individual or group is responsible for managing the student transition process from the kindergarten to grade one? Describe briefly the responsibilities of this person or group.
2. List the various individuals and groups involved in the transition decision/process, and describe briefly their roles. (Participants may include kindergarten teachers, enrollment director, remedial or curative staff, the incoming class teacher, and others.)
3. Describe the process by which a decision is made to accept a student from the kindergarten into the first grade. Be sure to include a calendar for when various steps in the decision making process are ideally undertaken.
4. Describe the key elements of the philosophy that informs your policies, practices and procedures in the area of transitions from kindergarten to first grade.
5. What is particularly effective in your work with kindergarten to first grade transitions?
6. If you could change some aspect of your work in transitioning students from kindergarten to first grade what would you like to change and why?
Which individual or group is responsible for managing the student transition process from the kindergarten to grade one? Describe briefly the responsibilities of this person or group.
Every school surveyed reported that the school has a first grade assessment team which is responsible for this work. This team works closely with the Enrollment Director who has responsibility for coordinating various aspects of the process and ensuring that the work follows an established timetable. The group is responsible for assessing the children who are applying for first grade and making acceptance decisions. The assessment team also provides the incoming first grade teacher with information about students once he or she is named. Often times the team also coordinates parent information evenings that focus on the developmental changes in the child at this time and how the first grade schedule and curriculum are designed to meet these needs. Several schools mentioned the benefit of having consistency on this team from year to year; it is a tremendous benefit to everyone - parents, students, and the school - if most members of the team stay constant from year to year.
It is interesting to note that there was not one example found of a school automatically accepting age appropriate students from its kindergarten into the first grade without the benefit of an assessment. Several schools mentioned the importance of communicating early and often to parents that acceptance is not automatic. They also mentioned the need for kindergarten teachers to speak honestly with parents about social or developmental concerns that might affect a child’s ability to thrive in the Waldorf lower school environment. This kind of news can be difficult to communicate, but parents are very appreciative of hearing this information if it can also be coupled with guidance on ways in which they can support their child’s development and information on other school environments which might be better suited to a child’s particular needs.
List the various individuals and groups involved in the transition decision/process, and describe briefly their roles. (Participants may include kindergarten teachers, enrollment director, remedial or curative staff, the incoming class teacher, and others.)
One school reported their assessment team is comprised of two teachers who were trained by Bonnie Rivers in first grade assessment. This training was done at school expense. One team member is an early childhood teacher and the other works as the school’s resource program coordinator.
Several schools reported using a larger team. These teams typically include a group of three of four faculty members. An experienced class teacher, the school’s resource teacher, the eurythmy teacher, and a subject teacher are the typical members of the assessment team. Several schools include the kindergarten teachers as members of the assessment team; others use the kindergarten teachers as information resources but do not include them in the decision making process. Similarly, some schools include the incoming first grade class teacher if known; others exclude the teacher from the decision making process.
A list of age appropriate children (typically defined as 6 years old by May 1 of the year prior to first grade) is prepared by either the Enrollment Director or the kindergarten teachers. Parents of these children are invited by the Enrollment Director to one or two special (often mandatory) meetings in the fall. Typically the first meeting focuses on the developmental changes that are taking place in the children. The second meeting is a review of the curriculum and a description of life in the lower school classroom, helping parents to understand how the teacher’s expectations of the child will change in concert with the child’s developmental progress. Several schools mentioned the effectiveness of a “Morning in the First Grade”, a special three hour participatory presentation held in the first grade classroom that allows parents to experience a mini main lesson and taste some of the subject classes their children will participate in during the upcoming school year.
The assessments are conducted by the assessment team and acceptance decisions are made. Parents are notified of the decisions, typically by the Enrollment Director. The assessment team will also meet with parents to give recommendations about any supplemental needs that the child may have such as speech therapy, etc. The Enrollment Director works with the assessment team to ensure that any special requirements are noted in the acceptance letter. Late in the spring when the class teacher has been named the assessment team will meet with the class teacher and review their perspectives on each student entering the new first grade. This allows the teacher to get an in-depth understanding of the capacities and challenges of each child identified during the assessment process.
Once the class teacher has been named the Enrollment Director will help coordinate a special meeting of parents in the class at which the teacher is introduced and the parents meet for the first time as a class. The teacher speaks about what takes place in the classroom, and his or her style of teaching. The parents each introduce themselves to each other, and the teacher shares his/her plan for summer home visits. The Enrollment Coordinator distributes rosters of all the families that will be coming in the fall.
Describe the process by which a decision is made to accept a student from the kindergarten into the first grade. Be sure to include a calendar for when various steps in the decision making process are ideally undertaken.
Some schools begin the process by asking the kindergarten teachers to prepare written assessments of each child in their class, and then to present brief pictures of the students at a faculty meeting. The assessment process is then turned over to the assessment team. Team members will meet with the students and ask them to do several exercises to show dominance, dexterity, coordination, verbal and visual memory. The assessors also look at the student’s health, speech, temperament, behavior, grooming and general school readiness. Oftentimes students are asked to draw a picture showing a person, a house, and a tree. (See: Grade One Assessment Procedure and Checklist) Many schools ask the assessment team to interview the child’s parents and assess their attitudes toward the school and Waldorf education, and to hear any particular concerns or questions that parents might have about their child.
Schools make every effort to complete the assessments prior to the re-enrollment period for the coming year. In some rare cases a decision must be deferred so a student can be given additional time to develop before acceptance can be finalized. These situations are infrequent, and parents are kept fully informed about the process until a definite answer can be provided.
Describe the key elements of the philosophy that informs your policies, practices and procedures in the area of transitions from kindergarten to first grade.
An article on first grade readiness is provided in the admissions packet to every parent who inquires about first grade. The article is written by an experienced Waldorf teacher. It is very helpful to let parents know what the school will be looking at as it makes its decisions about acceptance into the grades.
The school tries to be very up front about borderline situations. Spring birthdates are especially well described, and the school works to be very clear with both parents and the kindergarten teachers about what the admissions committee will be looking for.
Don’t move a young child into first grade just to fill the class. This doesn’t serve the child or the class.
Be sure that parents understand the difference between the kindergarten and the grade school. There are different demands on both the parents and the children, and these should be clearly understood.
The assessments should be coordinated to work with the school’s re-enrollment calendar and in recognition of the significant developmental changes that can take place in the last few months of the kindergarten year. The assessment is consciously delayed as long as possible to give children every opportunity for success.
The assessment is conducted in a way that tries to make the process a fun adventure rather than a test. Work is done with the parents to give them the language to speak to their children about the test so they can support the school’s efforts to keep the mood fun and light rather than giving them a sense that they are being judged and may fail.
The indications of first grade readiness are drawn from the developmental stages established from Steiner’s insights, not from other educational or societal standards.
Parents are strongly urged to come to parent evenings. Kindergarten parent conferences take place prior to the assessment process and the teachers prepare parents if there is a situation where the teacher sees a possibility of the child not being ready for first grade.
Parents need to know if their child is accepted, regardless of whether the first grade teacher has been named. A process must be in place to assure this.
There must be clear communication with parents regarding the process, how the decisions are made, how best to support the child during this transition and expectations of the first grade student.
The school has had recent success in naming the first grade teacher early on. It is a real plus when this happens and the incoming teacher can be an active participant in the acceptance process.
What is particularly effective in your work with kindergarten to first grade transitions?
The first grade admissions committee members are all experienced in early childhood education. There has been good continuity in the group, allowing them to know the cadence of the timeline and how to work effectively with the Enrollment Director. It is also helpful to have a committee rather than a single individual to manage this process.
It is reassuring to the parents to know that there is a serious process involving several teachers as the decision is made about first grade readiness.
The school works to make sure the kindergarten teachers are fully informed about the process and the concerns of the admissions committee regarding particular children, so there are no troubles with any false hopes being given to parents with children of concern.
The process is very transparent and there are rarely snags in the work that is done.
The school holds parent evenings that are a real help in the process. It is held in the first grade classroom and is called “The Transition to First Grade”. Parents of all age appropriate kindergarten students are invited. Two of the lower school class teachers speak about what the child looks like as she comes into first grade, and how the curriculum addresses her developmental needs at this time. This is a timely way for parents to hear and understand why the school delays academic study until the first grade, and does a good job of preparing parents to work effectively with the new first grade teacher. The kindergarten teachers also have a joint class meeting for potential first grade families just prior to the first grade event; this evening speaks to the changes the teachers are seeing now in the 6 year olds as they approach the first grade transition, and what families can do to support their child’s readiness for first grade.
Our teachers have been working with the parents, in many cases for years, to educate them about child development and first grade readiness. The teachers have also been working with the children to build the skills they will need to be successful in first grade.
The use of the assessments is extremely effective in identifying very specific areas of concern in ways that go beyond class teacher intuition and impressions.
As a result of strong assessment practices students and their families can be effectively counseled. In some cases families end up leaving the school for an educational setting that is more appropriate for their child’s needs.
If you could change some aspect of your work in transitioning students from kindergarten to first grade what would you like to change and why?
It would be great to know sooner who the first grade teacher will be. This helps parents have an increased sense of comfort as they make this transition with their child.
It is critical that the decision process is done in a timely way, and that it is completed prior to the re-enrollment period.
It would be helpful if there were a clearer or more formal handoff of information from the first grade acceptance committee to the first grade teacher.
It would be helpful to have more conversation between the class teachers and the kindergarten teachers about what they are looking for and why in terms of first grade readiness.
The school is continuing to work to clarify its process and making the timing work so that the needs of the school, the students and their families, and the newly forming class are met in the best way possible.