Early Learning Matters! Thoughts about the KIDS Report
By: Trish Rooney, Director of SPARK Early Childhood Collaboration
Last week the Illinois School Board of Education released the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) Report: Readiness Matters. For the first time in Illinois, we have a statewide snapshot of children’s developmental skills and competencies as they enter kindergarten.
As soon as the report was released, dozens of news articles were published sounding the alarm that statewide only 25% of children entering kindergarten are ready. I spent most of the weekend reading and re-reading the various news articles that were published about KIDS and one consistent thought and wish kept popping up…I really wished that the headlines of the stories said Early Learning Matters!
While the fact that only 25% of children entering kindergarten are ready is a concern, I also see it as an opportunity. This report provides valuable data and a call for action among early childhood professionals, parents, educators, policy-makers, and the funding community to be purposeful and intentional in the ways we can come together to support our families and children to succeed not only in school but also in life.
The KIDS data confirms that more children across the state must be able to access high-quality early childhood experiences through two vital actions: 1) increasing the number of programs providing quality early learning services, and 2) giving programs the resources necessary to meet the complex needs of children and families. Strategies should also include local government, businesses and agencies to be a part of the solution. Understanding that early childhood is the first step to ensuring children’s success in school and life has to be foremost in everyone’s mind and it is the responsibility of the whole community, not just schools.
I was asked recently to imagine what it would look like to a family if a community understood the value of early learning. Fortunately, we don’t have to imagine this at all, since such initiatives are already beginning to see meaningful impact in Aurora through SPARK, but we can continue to build the momentum. So I thought, “go big or go home” in my vision for Aurora. I envision that in our community, no matter where a parent goes with their child, early learning is talked about and given prominence; business owners share information about the great early childhood programs and services; libraries and parks highlight activities and information about early learning; and laundromats, grocery stores, restaurants, train stations are all part of advancing the cause. When stakeholders meet about education, I hope they reshape their thinking and planning to recognize that early childhood is the beginning of education and that secondary and post-secondary success is accomplished through a strong early childhood foundation.
Maria Whelan, President and CEO of Illinois Action for Children summed it up best, “This new data highlights the importance of whole communities coming together to ensure families have the support they need to help their children prepare for kindergarten, including quality child care and early education, health and mental health services, and basic services like libraries and safe parks. All of these contribute to kindergarten readiness.”
At SPARK Early Childhood Collaboration we know that through our collaborative framework our community will come together to develop strategies that will support positive outcomes for our families and children.
To learn more about SPARK visit www.sparkaurora.org
To learn more about KIDS visit https://www.isbe.net/kids
 Readiness Matters – https://www.theounce.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/KIDS_2018_data_STATE_8-12-18.pdf