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Kids unprepared for Grade 1

As many as 30% of Peel children lack needed skills: Study
English-as-a-second-language students aren't as ready

Toronto Star, TESS KALINOWSKI, EDUCATION REPORTER, November 25th, 2004

A wide-ranging assessment of senior kindergarten children in Peel Region has confirmed that as many as one in three don't have the physical, emotional and social skills needed to start school.

It showed Brampton students are least likely to be ready for school. About 30 per cent of Brampton children weren't prepared for Grade 1, versus 26 per cent in Mississauga and 16 per cent in Caledon, said Paul Favaro, chief of assessment and accountability at the Peel District School Board.

There is growing research that suggests children who struggle early on in school often fall behind permanently.

Although school officials weren't surprised by the findings, Favaro said, "it's key information to be able to mobilize the community to do something with our youngest students."

School board officials already know there are neighbourhoods where children appeared less equipped to begin reading at a Grade 1 level, primarily because English isn't a first language in those homes and working-poor parents don't have enough access to community support.

Last year, a federally funded Early Years study of the Dixie-Bloor neighbourhood in Mississauga reported similar findings.

But this is the first time Peel has conducted the school readiness assessment, known as an early development instrument survey (EDI), across the entire region with a view to combining the results with census data to create a complete picture of the obstacles to student success.

The EDI does not assess individual student performance or that of teachers and schools, but gauges preschool development and experiences, Favaro said. The assessments were conducted in March on 13,364 students in both the Peel public and Catholic boards.

Children are assessed individually on their readiness to read using such indicators as physical well-being, social competence, language, cognitive development and communications skills. Factors such as socio-economic status or birth weight are not included.

The report, which will be posted on the Peel District School Board's website today, shows:

Children who don't speak English as a first language were significantly less ready for Grade 1 than those from English-speaking homes. Teachers have designated 32 per cent of Peel senior kindergarten students as English-as-a-second-language learners.

Girls were significantly Read More ..ady for school than boys in all of the five developmental areas examined.

Children who attended organized preschool programs were Read More ..ady for Grade 1 than those who did not.

"Those preschool experiences have huge payoffs," Favaro said. "We want children to be ready to be able to deal with our educational system."

The Peel public board has already begun supporting neighbourhoods where children are most vulnerable. This fall the board opened four hub schools — one-stop centres for parenting information and early-learning opportunities, as well as other community supports that help parents. It has also introduced readiness centres in 10 schools and implemented Reading Recovery programs as part of a student support network called Pathways.

Peel education director Jim Grieve has taken a lead in Success by Six with the Peel United Way, in which community agencies join with school boards to support healthy family situations.

"The research shows that the most important factor in helping children be ready for school is a healthy, supportive community with ample opportunities for early development in their preschool years," Grieve said in a news release issued by the board.