Sens. Brown, Hagan Introduce Bill to Ensure "Ready Schools"

Ready Schools Act of 2011 Aims to Help Elementary Schools Prepare to Serve All Children

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) today introduced the Ready Schools Act of 2011, a bill aimed at preparing elementary schools to serve all children. A “ready” elementary school has school principals and educators who understand and use developmentally appropriate curricula, assessments, and teaching practices; involves and engages families; and works cooperatively with the early childhood programs for younger children to create a positive transition into the early grades of school.

“Ensuring that our schools are ready to educate and serve our children is just as important as ensuring that our children are ready to learn,” Brown said. “The building blocks critical to a lifetime of learning are laid during the elementary school years. That’s why it’s so important that we make our elementary schools the best they can be—from supporting professional development for principals, teachers, and other school personnel to fostering a climate that is conducive to learning.  I am proud of the work of the Spark Ohio partnership and the more than 40 ‘ready schools’ in Ohio, and this bill will help ensure that even more schools are the best they can be for our children.”

“Every child deserves the opportunity to achieve a lifetime of academic success," said Hagan, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  "North Carolina is leading the way with remarkable innovations in early childhood education thanks to programs such as Smart Start and More at Four.  We cannot risk losing those gains once a student enters kindergarten.  The Ready Schools Act helps ensure that our elementary school students continue to progress without adding a dime to our deficit. I look forward to working with Senator Brown and my colleagues in a bipartisan manner to include this legislation in the much-needed reform of No Child Left Behind.”

“School readiness" involves ready schools as well as children ready for kindergarten.  This legislation, building on the Ready Schools work in Ohio, North Carolina and other communities, will help schools provide the conditions and collaborations that will support all children in sustaining the gains they make in preschool through the early grades,” said Jerlean Daniel, Ph.D, Executive Director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

“While many believe that children should be ready for school, visionaries like Senator Brown recognize that it is really important that schools become ready for all the children they serve,” said  Larry Schweinhart, Ph.D., President of the HighScope Educational Research Foundation. “We know what it takes for schools to become ready schools. This bill will enable us to put this knowledge into practice.”

A 1998 report from the National Education Goals Panel stated that “school readiness” involves not only preparing each child for school but also preparing schools to support each child’s learning and development. However, a majority of efforts have focused on preparing children for school—and as a result, less emphasis has been placed on preparing schools to serve all children. Research shows that for many children, the skills they obtain prior to entering kindergarten can fade in the first few years of school.  As a result, it is crucial that elementary schools evaluate the conditions and collaborations that support children’s continued successful achievement throughout their educational careers.   The Ready Schools Act of 2011 seeks to prepare schools so that they can support all children.

The Ready Schools Act of 2011 requires schools to develop a ready school needs review that focuses on:

a)      Developing and implementing policies and procedures that create a positive school environment and classroom practices that support the needs of each child

b)      Building a school climate that supports positive development and learning

c)      Providing leadership and support for school staff including professional development for elementary principals, teachers, and other school personnel and the appropriate assignment of teachers based on degrees and certification

d)     Fostering outreach and collaboration with early childhood education providers in the school attendance area.

The Ready Schools Act has been endorsed by the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators; the Ohio Head Start Association; the National Education Association; the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC); the HighScope Educational Research Foundation; and the National Women’s Law Center.

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