January 2019 Articles

1/31/2019

Parents, Are You Ready for Kindergarten? A Guide for Families

By: Wendy Grove

GettyImages-897885414.jpgIs there a child in your life who is 5 years old (or turning so soon) who is amazing you with all he or she knows? Mamas, daddies, grandparents and loved ones, that baby of yours is growing up! After surviving midnight feedings, watching them learn to walk and talk and answering their endless questions, it is time to start thinking about kindergarten. February is the time of year most schools start requesting kindergarten registration paperwork.

Sending your child to kindergarten is a big change for many families, but the Department has updated its kindergarten resources to make this transition easier. Today, I am going outline a few of the basics you may need to know regarding kindergarten and preparing your child — and yourself — for school.

Where should my child go to school?
There are many schools and program types to consider when choosing the right option for your child. Know that you have choices! There are many options the Department wants you to be aware of so you make an informed decision about what is best for you and your child. Public schools, community schools, private schools, part-time, full-time, free, tuition-based, scholarships, open enrollment — what does it all mean? Whew, I’m out of breath. That is a lot! But don’t worry, to learn more about Ohio’s education options, browse the topics listed below:

  • Do you know which school your child would attend based on where you live? There is an online tool to help you find your neighborhood school.
  • Do you know all the options available to you when choosing a kindergarten setting? Learn about education options here. If you want to talk to someone about those options, staff contact information is available on that website.
  • What about the neighboring school district where your friend’s child attends? Would that be possible? Open enrollment is when a school accepts children who live outside of the residential boundaries. Find out here which schools offer open enrollment.

When should my child start kindergarten?
Ohio state law says children are old enough to start kindergarten if they are 5 years old by the school district’s age cut-off date. That date is either Aug. 1 or Sept. 30. Each school district has chosen one of these dates. After you identify which district or school your child will attend, you can find out that school’s kindergarten age cut-off date by visiting its website or calling its office.

What does it mean to be “ready” for kindergarten?
Part of the when question may be whether your child is ready for kindergarten. Sometimes, people ask me if children should know how to read before starting school. The answer to that is “no.” But here is a list of knowledge and behaviors that might help you decide how ready your child is. The list also is a guide for how to help your child get ready for school. You should know that age is the only reason a public kindergarten program can accept or deny your child’s registration for kindergarten. There is no state law that says a child must be able to do certain things in order to attend public school. If your child is gifted or has special education needs, or if you don’t yet know and need to know more, the link above has information about that too.

Why does kindergarten and early learning matter?
Research tells us that 90 percent of the brain is developed between birth and 5 years old. This means the time for learning is now! Children learn more during this time of life than in any other. Just think of all the life skills they have learned up to now: walking, talking, eating, dressing, brushing teeth, sharing, showing love and looking both ways before crossing the street. In kindergarten, your kiddo will learn how to do school, which is where he or she will spend a lot of time over the next 13 years. In addition to the foundational academic skills, like writing and numbers, children also learn (or continue learning) how to be away from family, make friends, establish relationships with other trusted adults, follow rules outside of home, and work through schedules, routines and steps to solve problems.

This is such a great time. I am so excited for you and your child! I hope you are as excited as your little one may be to “be a big kid” and start school. If you do have a kiddo at home that seems more scared or worried about beginning kindergarten, I hope the resources and this blog will help you support your child in feeling more confident about kindergarten.

If you have other questions about starting school, try the Department’s Frequently Asked Questions. The Department also has a great team of education specialists who can answer your questions — just contact them through the contact information at the link above.

Finally, one piece of advice from my own experience as a mama…this is harder on you than your child. Be strong and help your child feel confident. Your child takes cues from you. Always remember you are your child’s first teacher and biggest advocate. Your support can lead to your child’s success in kindergarten and beyond! So, let’s get ready! You have the next seven months to continue the steps to school! Then, you will walk your growing child into the school, post a first-ever, first day of school picture and exhale. 

Dr. Wendy Grove is the director of the Office for Early Learning and School Readiness at the Ohio Department of Education, where she helps develop and implement policies for preschool special education and early childhood education. You can learn more about Wendy by clicking here.

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1/25/2019

Recognizing Momentum... One of the Great Things Happening in Ohio’s Schools

By: Chris Woolard

Momentum-2018-1.jpgMerriam-Webster defines momentum as “strength or force gained by motion.”

In sports, the concept of momentum often is used to describe teams or athletes that create an energy that turns the game in their favor through a series of outstanding efforts and events. As a sports fan, I can recognize that concept in action. There is a feeling of extreme positivity, gains are being made, and everyone — the team, the coaches, the fans — recognizes things are going in the right direction. It feels contagious — and the idea is that you can build on it.

That energy can apply to schools too.

Our state superintendent of public instruction, Paolo DeMaria, spends a lot of time visiting with Ohio’s students and teachers to see firsthand the great things happening in Ohio’s classrooms. If you follow his Twitter and the Department’s Instagram posts, you can see amazing examples of these schools. These visits also are featured in blog posts. Recently, as part of the ongoing discussion about Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education, Each Child, Our Future, Paolo has been visiting schools that have received state recognition.

Ohio highlights schools and districts with awards that recognize high academic performance, growth, and improvements with groups of students. In my role with the state report card and understanding the performance of Ohio’s schools, one of my favorite recognitions is the Momentum Award. The State Board of Education presents this award to districts and schools for exceeding expectations in student growth on state assessments. To earn the award, a district or school must earn straight A’s on all Value-Added measures on the Ohio School Report Cards. Report cards serve many purposes. One of those that often gets overlooked is the recognition of success. Report cards have a lot of information. They contain information about student progress on state tests, which are tools for students to demonstrate what they can do regarding state learning standards. Measuring growth is complex, but the importance of it cannot be overstated. All students in Ohio can show growth. All schools and districts, regardless of their starting points, can show growth for their students. The Momentum Award identifies those schools and districts that exceeded growth expectations on the most recent report cards.

A total of 70 districts and 226 schools recently were announced as Momentum Award winners. They come from all over the state, including Georgetown Jr/Sr High School in Brown County, Mason City Schools, and Paul L. Dunbar Elementary in Cleveland. They will be recognized with certificates, and many local newspapers have been highlighting these successes. But most importantly, students in these schools are showing outstanding growth. There are great things going on in Ohio’s schools, and growth on state assessments is only one part of the picture. Schools are preparing students for what comes after graduation. Schools are meeting students’ social-emotional needs. Students are participating in remarkable art programs and marching in dazzling bands. There are lots of great things that represent success, and we should be sure to acknowledge that. We also can learn from these examples using Ohio’s Evidence-Based Clearinghouse. The Momentum Award is one way to acknowledge that success. Congrats to all of this year’s honorees. Keep doing great things for Ohio’s students.

Chris Woolard is senior executive director for Performance and Impact for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Chris by clicking here.

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1/23/2019

State Supt. Paolo DeMaria Visits Southwest Local School District, Three Rivers Local School District and the University of Cincinnati’s Alpaugh Scholars Leadership Program

By: Staff Blogger

State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria spent Tuesday in southwest Ohio visiting schools and an educator leadership program. In the Southwest Local School District, he stopped at Miamitown Elementary School to see how they effectively embrace school culture — a key reason the school has been named a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School, 2018 Momentum Award winner and 2018 High Progress School of Honor. Also in Southwest Local, Harrison High School put their impressive programs on display, showing how they prepare students for post-high school pathways. Superintendent DeMaria then headed to Three Rivers Local School District's state-of-the-art campus to hear about their safety and security services and diverse learning opportunities for students. He finished his day at the University of Cincinnati’s Alpaugh Scholars Leadership Program, where area education leaders learn leadership skills and interact with local businesses to learn the unique opportunities and challenges of the region.

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1/17/2019

Being Dedicated to Meeting the Needs of the Whole Child

By: Brittany Miracle

GettyImages-950605046.jpgYou may not realize it, but there have been some changes at the Department of Education. Recently, I joined the ExtraCredit blogging team, and the Department created a new office. In my first official blog, I am honored to introduce you to the Office of Integrated Student Supports!

The Department created this office in direct response to feedback from you — Ohio’s stakeholders and our students’ biggest advocates! More than 1,200 stakeholders — including parents, caregivers, preK-12 educators, higher education representatives, business leaders, employers, community members, state legislators and students — put their heads together to develop Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education, Each Child, Our Future. You requested more non-academic supports to address the needs of the whole child, and the Department listened!

Each Child, Our Future places the whole child at the center of the Department’s work to support and improve student outcomes. Meeting the needs of the whole child means each child’s basic needs are met to allow for optimal conditions for learning.

For all of Ohio’s students to be challenged, prepared and empowered, we must support districts in getting students to school healthy, engaged and safe every day. Each child, regardless of demographics, must have access to supports to meet his or her intellectual, physical, emotional and social needs. The Office of Integrated Student Supports is well-equipped to support schools and districts in meeting the needs of each child.

Here are some important things to know about the work of our office:

  • The office dedicates staff to ensure the educational stability of Ohio’s homeless youth, students in foster care, English learners and justice-involved youth. These vulnerable populations may face significant barriers to education, such as high mobility rates, trauma, and undiagnosed mental and physical health needs, and we are here to help. The office works to increase student attendance. Students who do not attend school regularly are less likely to read on grade level and graduate on time. You can find ideas, tips and resources to encourage regular attendance on the Department’s website.
  • We helped form Ohio’s School-based Health Care network. The network comprises 18 schools and districts partnering with health care providers to meet students’ physical, mental and behavioral health needs. Schools and districts can use Ohio’s School-based Health Care Support Toolkit to get started.
  • More than one million school lunches are served every day in Ohio, and our office helps make that happen. Learn more about how to start or expand your child nutrition programs.
  • The office provides additional supports to schools and districts that benefit the whole child. These supports include positive behavioral interventions and supports; and information and resources to achieve positive school climate and culture; school-based health care; family and community engagement; trauma-informed schools; social and emotional learning; and anti-bullying, harassment and intimidation.

As you read, we have a lot of responsibility, and we can’t do it alone. We are all partners in ensuring each child is challenged to discover and learn, prepared to pursue a fulfilling post-high school path and empowered to become a resilient lifelong learner who contributes to society. Comment below if you have questions or thoughts about how to support each child in Ohio. I look forward to sharing more about our work with you in future ExtraCredit blogs!

Brittany Miracle works in the Office of Integrated Student Supports. She oversees programs that support vulnerable student populations and helps schools meet the needs of the whole child. You can learn more about Brittany by clicking here.

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1/14/2019

State Supt. Paolo DeMaria Visits Ashville Elementary

By: Staff Blogger

Part of building excitement for student learning means creating a culture of continuous improvement and feedback for educators and staff. Providing students with the necessary supports helps to meet their unique needs and positions them to learn and grow. State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria visited Ashville Elementary School on Jan. 11 and learned how their educators and staff create a positive school climate for kids. The Ohio Department of Education recently recognized Ashville Elementary, in the Teays Valley Local School District, as one of the state’s High Progress Schools of Honor for 2018.

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