School Readiness

Preschool Teachers

The four school readiness action steps are used by programs to develop a system of high-quality learning that gets children ready for school success. Teachers do not use the four steps to plan for children, but need to consider how their work aligns with each step. Read more to find out how.

The School Readiness Action Steps help to guide planning so that time and effort is well spent in helping children make progress toward school readiness and individual goals.

Steps to School Readiness

  1. Establish Goals for Improving School Readiness Across Domains

    • Teachers know and understand the broad range of content areas and the developmental expectations (i.e., social and emotional, cognitive, expressive and receptive language, motor, adaptive, and English language development) appropriate for young children as outlined by the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework.
    • Teachers consider what they want children to know, understand, and be able to do using the five essential domains.
  2. Create and Implement an Action Plan for Achieving Established School Readiness Goals

    • Plan lessons and activities using a research-based curriculum that is aligned with learning standards. The lessons and activities are intentional, culturally responsive, and support learning and development. Teachers design environments and opportunities for exploration, experiences, and routines throughout each day.
    • Gauge children's interests and progress to design whole group, small group, and individualized experiences.
    • Consider information families have shared that will help connect children's experiences at home and at school, and welcome families as co-educators with valuable input. Information the family shares about language will be especially important to consider for children who are dual language learners.
  3. Assess Child Progress on an Ongoing Basis and Aggregate and Analyze Data at Multiple Times Throughout the Year

    • Collect data on children's individual goals to guide teaching.
    • Understand the importance of collecting, understanding, and using high-quality assessment information in the classroom to inform what they do with children and how they communicate with parents and specialists about children in the class or learning environment.
    • Observe and document classroom and individual child progress. All members of the classroom team make a contribution to the documentation.
    • Collect and make sense of data by using information and data from multiple sources to drive reflection and decision-making about teaching and learning. Sources may include:
      1. Written observations, photos, and videos
      2. Home visit and family conference forms
      3. Classroom profile or snapshot reports
      4. Developmental screenings
      5. Special education and early intervention evaluations reports and progress notes, when relevant
    • Use assessments, such as the Teaching Strategies Gold and Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, three times per program year to see how the children are progressing towards their goals individually, as a classroom, and beyond. All members of the classroom team and family members make a contribution to the documentation.
  4. Examine Data for Patterns of Progress for Groups of Children to Revise, Develop, and Implement Plans for Program Improvement

    • Use culturally responsive assessment tools and measures to collect high-quality data to engage in reflective practice and collaborations to make decisions based on observations and documentation to improve their teaching and their children's learning.


A Guide to Resources for Developing School Readiness Goals

Research-Based Curricula and Teaching Practices
A high-quality, culturally responsive, research-based curriculum provides learning goals and activities in key areas of children's development that reflect support for school readiness goals. A curriculum provides guidance on what (content) and how to teach (learning experiences and teaching strategies). The content is drawn from current child development science, the interests and ideas of the children, and the values of the community.

Foundation: Engaging Interactions and Environments
Effective, engaging interactions and environments are the foundation for all learning in early childhood classrooms. High-quality preschool classrooms include a well-organized and managed classroom where the culture, language, heritage, and experiences of children and families are valued and where social-emotional support is plentiful. Instructional interactions and materials are used stimulate children's thinking and skills.

Highly Individualized Teaching and Learning
Young children vary widely in their skills, knowledge, backgrounds, and abilities. Teaching has to effectively reach all children regardless of their abilities and disabilities. Effective instruction for all children requires specialized teaching and learning opportunities to access, participate, and thrive in the preschool classroom. Effective teachers are sensitive and skilled in interactions. They use ongoing formative assessment of each child's skills to plan instruction, and they choose and use curricula and activities that engage all children, regardless of their strengths or needs.

Ongoing Child Assessment
Ongoing child assessment is integral to curriculum and instruction when helping children achieve school readiness and individual learning goals. Teachers need to keep track of how the children are doing. Assessment information helps them monitor progress, both for individual children and for the program as a whole. Assessment information needs to be valid, reliable, and useful so the results can inform curriculum and instruction.

Code Switching: Why It Matters and How to Respond defines and describes code switching (language mixing) by young dual language learners (DLLs). One third of all Head Start and Early Head Start enrollees are DLLs. This resource provides strategies to support their language development.