1.     What is the purpose of KC Ready 4s?

Kalamazoo County Ready 4s comes from a community commitment to increase access to high-quality pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds who live in Kalamazoo County, so that for the 2014-15 school year, children who are or will be 4 years old on or before October 1, 2014, will enter kindergarten the following year ready to succeed.
2.     What is high-quality pre-kindergarten?

Parents describe high-quality pre-kindergarten as joyful, intentional, and life changing for their children.

  • Joyful:  Children are safe and secure.  They are actively engaged in hands-on learning experiences.  Their teachers are nurturing and knowledgeable about child development and early childhood education.  Children learn how to play and work well with one another.
  • Intentional:  The children’s curriculum is based on a tested curriculum model.  All areas of child development and learning are addressed:  social, emotional, physical, intellectual (pre-academic content, reasoning and problem solving), language (literacy), and aesthetics (music and movement, art.)
  • Life Changing:  Children in high-quality pre-kindergarten develop a greater foundation of skills and positive attitudes about learning (such as curiosity and perseverance) that benefits them for the rest of their lives.  When children start from a strong “launching pad” of high-quality pre-kindergarten, that boosts their learning into “higher orbit” from kindergarten to college and/or work that continues into their adult lives.

3.     How did KC Ready 4s get started?

KC Ready 4s grew out of discussions in the member congregations of ISAAC, the Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy and Action in the Community.  In 2009, a group of leaders in education, economic development, early childhood, government, business and philanthropy joined with parents to study issues of pre-kindergarten preparation.  That group, under the leadership of Kalamazoo College President Dr. Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran, conducted an intensive two-year study which led to the design of KC Ready 4s. KC Ready 4s now has a board and executive director, and has become a nonprofit organization.

4.     How many children participated in the KC Ready 4s’ pilot?

The KC Ready 4s 2011-12 pilot enrolled 66 4-year-old children for the KC Ready 4s’ experience.  Approximately 140 children were enrolled during the 2012-13 school year, and currently there are 126 children enrolled for the 2013-14 school year.   As funds are available, each year we may enroll more children and/or increase the number of high-quality pre-kindergarten providers throughout all of Kalamazoo County.

5.     How is KC Ready 4s supported?

KC Ready 4s is a community initiative that has become a nonprofit organization.  KC Ready 4s is privately funded by grants.  Contingent on funding, the KC Ready 4s’ system aims to grow over the next several years to include most pre-k providers and 1,500 of the county’s 3,100 4-year-old children.

6.     How is KC Ready 4s related to the Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo?

The Learning Network is a multi-pronged initiative to positively impact education throughout Kalamazoo County.  Coordinated by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, the Learning Network has identified several projects for support with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Kalamazoo Community Foundation.  The KC Ready 4s’ pilot was one of those initial projects.  The Learning Network plans to fund additional projects in the future.

7.     How will we know if KC Ready 4s is helping our community?
In the fall of 2010, KC Ready 4s assessed kindergarten students around Kalamazoo County to see how ready they were for kindergarten.  Every couple of years, KC Ready 4s will repeat that assessment of incoming kindergarten students throughout the county and compare the readiness levels to those established in 2010.

8.     Besides KC Ready 4s, what other high-quality pre-kindergarten options are available for children?

Kalamazoo County Ready 4s is working with both public and private providers in offering high-quality pre-kindergarten for every 4-year-old living in Kalamazoo County.  This joint venture is called Kalamazoo County Pre-K.  The public providers include the federally funded Head Start program and the state funded Great Start Readiness Program.  The private providers are licensed centers or group homes that have reached either 4 or 5 stars under Michigan’s Great Start to Quality Rating and Improvement System.

9.     What does KC Ready 4s offer for providers?

The KC Ready 4s’ system offers financial support, training and mentoring to existing pre-kindergarten providers to help them reach and maintain standards of high-quality.  Providers in the KC Ready 4s’ system must use an approved high-quality pre-kindergarten curriculum model, engage children for 3 hours/day, 5 days/week for 33 weeks, and demonstrate program quality.

10.     What providers are involved in the KC Ready 4s’ system?

We are growing!  Please check the “Kalamazoo County Pre-K Providers” page for an updated list of providers.

These providers meet the KC Ready 4s’ quality standards.  The providers rank at 4-5 stars on the 5-star scale of the Michigan Quality Rating & Improvement System.  To rank at 4-5 stars, the providers must demonstrate high quality in structure, as well as in interactions with children and families.  They use one of the State of Michigan’s approved curriculum models and will offer pre-kindergarten for 3 hours/day, 5 days/week for 33 weeks.

Our goal is to increase private and public providers so that more families can take advantage of high-quality pre-kindergarten throughout Kalamazoo County.

11.     Do the KC Ready 4s’ providers all have to operate in the same way?

No.  The KC Ready 4s’ system builds on the existing network of providers, which include private preschools, child care centers, group child care homes, and public schools.  KC Ready 4s will help coordinate access across the county to a wide variety of high-quality pre-K programs.  Children will thrive in these diverse settings.  KC Ready 4s’ providers will be able to retain their uniqueness while still maintaining standards of high-quality.

12.     What does KC Ready 4s offer to families?

In addition to helping to ensure that their 4-year-old children have a high-quality pre-kindergarten experience, KC Ready 4s increases some families’ access to such an experience with sliding scale tuition based on family income.

Besides tuition assistance, KC Ready 4s offers speech, hearing and language screenings (in collaboration with WMU’s Department of Speech Pathology & Audiology), gross and fine motor development screenings (in collaboration with WMU’s Occupational Therapy Department), monthly parent meetings on a variety of topics that engage and empower families, and a spring event that helps parents understand the expectations for kindergarten and how they can help their child be ready for kindergarten.

13.     Can I enroll my child for the KC Ready 4s’ experience?

We participate with Kalamazoo County Pre-K, a collaborative effort with Head Start and the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP).  The following information may help clarify the different programs:

  • Head Start is federally-funded pre-k for 3- and 4-year-olds, for families at or below 100% of poverty.  Classrooms are located in public schools and other community sites.
  • GSRP is state-funded pre-k for 4-year-olds, for families at 101% to 250% of poverty.  Other non-income factors may also be considered.  Classrooms are located in public schools and childcare centers.
  • KC Ready 4s works with private pre-k programs, funding families who do not qualify for Head Start or GSRP, with annual incomes up to $90,000.  Classrooms are located in childcare centers, public and private schools, and licensed home daycare programs.  Tuition assistance is based on a sliding fee scale and depends on available funding that comes from grants and corporate & individual donations.

14.     How do I apply for a pre-kindergarten program for my 4-year-old?

For information on applying for the 2014-15 school year, please go to the “How to Apply” page.  There is a common application for Head Start, GSRP and KC Ready 4s’ programs.  Your child’s application will be forwarded to the program for which your family is eligible.

15.     How will we know if the KC Ready 4s’ system is working?

Children who participate in the KC Ready 4s’ experience will be assessed at the beginning of their pre-k experience, and again at the beginning of kindergarten.  By comparing their growth to the growth children typically show between ages 4 and 5, we will know how much difference the KC Ready 4s’ experience is making.

16.     What does it mean for a child to be ready for kindergarten?

A high-quality pre-kindergarten experience expertly prepares children to make the most of the many learning opportunities that will come their way as kindergartners and beyond.  Children who have had high-quality pre-kindergarten are much more likely to arrive at kindergarten with the skills and attitudes they need to flourish.  After their pre-kindergarten experience, these “Ready 4s” are confident, capable and curious learners!

17.     How does KC Ready 4s know if a child is ready for kindergarten?

To check for kindergarten readiness, specially trained people test children for their language readiness, math readiness and social-emotional readiness.  The tests used are nationally recognized, high-quality assessments.

18.     What happens to the assessment results?

Results will be analyzed as a group, and only to evaluate the effectiveness of the KC Ready 4s’ system.  The number of children assessed is too small for anyone to draw conclusions about a particular pre-k provider.  Individual test results remain confidential.

Results are not given to families because the tests are not suited for charting a child’s individual path of development.  Each pre-k provider has its own ways to check and promote a child’s unique development in partnership with the child’s family.  Your child’s teacher is the best person to talk with about your child’s readiness for kindergarten.

19.     Where can I learn more?

More information about KC Ready 4s is available on other pages of our website, or contact us for specific questions.