A Vital Connection Between Head Start and School
Working together for better results
Ronnie Herndon | 7/18/2017, 4:14 p.m.
I have been working in our community with Head Start since 1975. I have never been as excited as I am today about the path ahead to make progress for our students because of a new partnership Albina Head Start formed with Boise-Eliot/Humboldt School this past school year.
People have been talking about building connections between Head Starts and our local schools for as long as I can remember, yet there has been little action. Thankfully, All Hands Raised brought us together to ensure our students and their families’ transition more smoothly over the summer to kindergarten this fall.
Boise-Eliot/Humboldt is a cornerstone of our North/Northeast Portland community, and Boise-Eliot/Humboldt's three kindergarten teachers have each taught in the school for more than 20 years. Yet, no relationships existed between our teachers and theirs. This despite Albina being the largest preschool provider to Boise-Eliot/Humboldt in the neighborhood; nearly one-third of all Boise-Eliot/Humboldt kindergarteners come from our program.
All Hands Raised brought us together to have focused conversations, rooted in data, to test new ways of working together that will have positive impacts on students and their families.
As a result, Boise-Eliot/Humboldt teachers visited our classrooms this year for the first time, and gained an understanding of our curriculum, culture and philosophy. Likewise, Albina teachers visited Boise-Eliot/Humboldt for the first time to do the same. And, even more powerful, our students visited the Boise-Eliot/Humboldt kindergarten classrooms this spring helping address the anxiety, fear, and excitement that comes with transitioning out of preschool.
Now, our teams are working together to align our school readiness assessment with the Boise-Eliot/Humboldt measures of kindergarten and first grade readiness and long-term measures of academic success. We are also creating a shared plan to engage families so that our celebrated family engagement culture becomes embedded in the Boise-Eliot/Humboldt classrooms that will welcome our students in the fall.
As Boise-Eliot/Humboldt kindergarten teacher John Meskimen noted, "being connected to the Albina teachers has given us a rich and valuable resource-not only to learn about a large number of our new students and their families, but also to learn how we can improve our classrooms and our communication to be more welcoming and informed from day one."
Clearly, these practices are common sense, yet it took 30 years for two friendly neighbors to build a smoother transition for our kids. We needed an objective match-maker to build this path forward with both Albina and Boise-Eliot/Humboldt staff members playing an equal role. I look forward to watching the impacts multiply.
Ronnie Herndon is executive director of Albina Head Start.