- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (AP) - Everything in the classroom is low to the ground.

The room is painted in clean, natural colors, and the amount of primary colors is limited so preschoolers aren’t overloaded with sensory distractions.

The building of the new Sage YMCA facility triggered a “re-energizing of the early-learning program,” said Christina Krasov, vice president of performance and improvement for the YMCA of Metro Chicago.

“We were very intentional in the way we built out the classrooms and with the furniture and supplies we put in it,” she said. “We got down on our knees and looked at the world the way a 3- or 4-year-old would. Where are things located? Are the learning materials there available to them?”

Sage has applied that systematic approach to its curriculum, too, staying up to date on the latest research and immediately putting it to work in the classroom, Krasov said.

And it seems to have paid off, she said.

About 60 percent of students met the benchmarks for kindergarten readiness when tested this past spring using the Bracken School Readiness Assessment. The remaining 40 percent exceeded those standards.

A baseline assessment conducted in the fall had shown the students at 4 percent not meeting, 80 percent meeting and 16 percent exceeding, according to documents provided by the YMCA of Metro Chicago.

Assessments of some kind - either informal or formal - are fairly common, said preschool teacher Jenny Baier, who is in her first year at House of Children in Woodstock. The goal is to make sure kids are ready to go to kindergarten, which they can attend at the House of Children or at their local school district.

“Social skills are really, really important - being able to interact with kids, sitting at the tables and doing their work at the tables,” Baier said, adding that they also look at how high they can count and whether they know the alphabet.

Kindergarten teachers at Three Oaks Elementary School in Cary have noticed that more children are going to preschool after the numbers dropped during the recession, Principal Natalie Wishne said, adding that at one point, as many as 40 percent of children hadn’t gone to preschool.

Preschool isn’t the only option for kids getting the skills they need on Day One, Wishne said, adding that park district classes can also help kids prepare and that while some kids struggle without the preparation preschool provides, others do just fine.

“The biggest thing is that they know what school’s about,” she said. “They know that you sit and listen. They know there’s a time for free play. They know what the expectations are.”

Not all preschools are created equal in preparing children for kindergarten, the YMCA’s Krasov said, adding that parents should look for the interactions between children and teachers, not just the bells and whistles that come with marketing.

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Source: The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald, https://bit.ly/1XlgZJY

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Information from: The Northwest Herald, https://www.nwherald.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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