The transition to kindergarten: One school's effort to build a new bridge
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Each year, millions of children board school busses for the first time to embark on their formal journey through compulsory elementary and secondary education. As children begin this exciting time in their educational life, they are engaged in a transition process between the K-12 school environment and their home, formal preschool programs, day care programs and a wide variety of childcare configurations. Despite the apparent importance of this period, there appears to be a lack of programming and formal policy that addresses the transition to kindergarten in public school districts. Research in this transition area demonstrates a need for schools to systematically address this crucial time in a child's life. A disconnect appears to exist between what the research suggests and what schools practice. South Castle Primary in western New York State attempted to ameliorate this disconnect by developing a transition to kindergarten program. The development of this program was a significant change in practice. This study was a reflective inquiry into the change process evident in the development of a transition to kindergarten program at this school. The study sought to define the barriers, factors, and effects associated with the change process that occurred in the development of a transition to kindergarten program. Knowledge gained from this research may assist other schools considering the initiation of similar innovations. Research questions were researched through the combination of qualitative surveys and semi-structured interviews. Common themes of meaning, teacher driven change, and resource capacity were found. Data was reviewed continuously using each theme as a lens for data analysis. The themes and their analysis were the starting point for developing a causal network and analytic text that answers each research question. The study concluded that the Begindergarten program had the following perceived positive outcomes: (1) Improvement in academic and emotional readiness of students. (2) Development of a link between preschool and school environments. (3) Enhancement of school pride and collegiality. (4) Development of strong home-school relationships with parents. Answers to the research questions indicate that the program was successfully initiated and implemented because of the program was meaningful to the teachers, the change was driven by teachers, and resources existed in the form of human resource capacity, leadership capacity and financial capacity. The study adds to the transition literature by providing an example of a successful transition program and a list of suggestions for the practitioner considering a similar change process.