HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg Public School District is partnering with preschool centers and parents to improve the number of children who are prepared for kindergarten.
Just two weeks after Interim Superintendent Robert Williams told the HPSD Board of Trustees only 29 percent of students are testing as kindergarten ready, the district hosted a workshop with local child care centers, the Mississippi Department of Education's (MDE) Office of Elementary Education and Reading, Hattiesburg Excel by 5 and Mississippi State Extension to create a partnership to better educate the district's youngest learners.
"We have five pre-k classrooms in our district, and we wanted to make sure that we're reaching more parents more students," said Teresa Poole, HPSD assistant superintendent. "So we thought what better way to do that than to partner with our private and public day cares."
Carrie Hornsby, HPSD's director of federal programs, explained to the child care providers the district is using MDE's four-year-old checklist as their curriculum in their pre-kindergarten classrooms.
"We would love to be able to partner with you about what that looks like in your classrooms, what it looks like in our classrooms, so that we can make sure that the kids are getting everything that they need," Hornsby said. "We've got kids who are coming in on that screener of colors, writing names, you know, just basics, scoring 20s, and then we're trying to exit them with kindergarten readiness at 80 or above."
With more application skills required in kindergarten than preschool, Poole said those basics and reading skills are essential.
"Literacy is, has been, the top thing with us," Poole said. "We're trying to make sure our students and their parents are actually knowing what's expected of them."
She said parent involvement in the partnership between the district and day cares will be essential for student success.
"Sometimes as parents, we aren't aware of the readiness skills for our students, for our children, so we want to make sure that everyone has an idea of what's expected of their child and some things that we can do to support them," Poole said.
Along with offering their insights and resources, the district is getting feedback from the child care centers about what things they need or what implemented.
"What we found (Thursday) that was surprising to me, and I did not think about it at first, was computer skills," Poole said. "We talked about using a mouse. A lot of the students are accustomed to using the iPads and the iPhones, so what we're trying to do now is offer a session for our students just working with the mouse."
Mouse skills are particularly important because students take their Kindergarten Readiness Assessment on a computer.
The district collected other suggestions for upcoming "lunch and learn" meetings they will host with the child care providers and guest speakers.
"I want this to be something where you can call me," Poole said to the child care directors. "Yeah, we're working stretched thin, but we want to make sure that we're here for you and here for our parents and here for this community."