New Initiative Underway to Align Public and Private Services to Help Children Prepare for Kindergarten

February 8, 2000
A unique initiative to align government, education, and private services in Montgomery County to prepare young children for success in Kindergarten is underway, with a focus on the medical, social, and intellectual support children need from birth through the first day of school.

The initiative already involves the school system and several county agencies, under the leadership of the Montgomery County Collaboration Council, which has identified the health, education, and welfare of preschool-age children as a priority for the county. Significant support efforts are now underway by the Montgomery County Public Schools and the county's Department of Health and Human Services.

The goal is help parents from throughout the county have "healthy, happy children ready to learn" when they arrive for preschool and Kindergarten programs. The Board of Education received a detailed briefing today [Tuesday, February 8] on the initiative from both school system staff and representatives of the Collaboration Council.

Five joint committees have begun work on developing appropriate program and budget requirements, a needs assessment, organizational structure, data and evaluation methodologies, and standards for accountability. The joint initiative is to be fully underway in the new school year.

Among the components of the initiative are information packets for parents of all newborn children, which would be presented at hospitals and medical centers as a way of sharing information with new parents on health, education, and social services available in the county. It will also include information on intellectual and physical development of young children and the pre-literacy techniques that can help prepare youngsters for Kindergarten.

Other components would include providing parents and the private day care community with information and support about new standards nd expectations being envisioned for early childhood education programs in the school system, particularly the goal of focusing on a stronger development of reading, mathematics, and writing skills in Kindergarten.

The effort was initiated in response to the growing need among families with young children for health care and preschool services in the county, especially those services that will help children be prepared intellectually for more rigorous standards envisioned for the school system.

More than 60,000 children from newborns to five-year-olds live in the county. Not all of them have access to day care services and other support systems. In fact, the current capacity of day care in the county provides services to just 17 percent of the eligible children.

More than 13,800 of the young children would qualify for free and reduced-priced meal assistance if they were enrolled in schools. MCPS serves approximately 5,200 through its pre-school programs. More than 12,000 children are expected to enter Kindergarten next fall.

Concerns about the continuing gap in student achievement by race and ethnicity, including significant differences that are apparent even in Kindergarten, are among the driving forces behind the initiative.

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