New 40-day program for kindergarten-readiness launches June 30; community partners needed

June 10, 2022 | 12:10 am

Updated June 10, 2022 | 12:14 am

Photo by Ryan Richardson

Half of children in Greater Owensboro who step off the bus for the first day of kindergarten are not prepared, according to 2019-20 statistics — and that’s one of only five significant gaps in kindergarten-readiness locally. In the first of many steps to address the issues, an education-based partnership is launching OK GO, a 40-day program to help children and their parents/guardians get ready for the first day of school. The committee is seeking another 30 community partners to help with the initiative.

The partnership is spearheaded by The Public Life Foundation of Owensboro and The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. Representatives unveiled the OK GO program Thursday during a special joint luncheon with the Owensboro and Daviess County school boards.

Earlier this year, the partnership outlined five key points of the current Early Childhood Education (ECE) landscape, along with six recommendations on how to address the issues (outlined in more detail below). 

OK GO is the first step in addressing the first recommendation of launching a public advocacy campaign to encourage community-wide support, according to Benjamin Geis, director of early childhood policy and practice for the Prichard Committee.

Geis said OK GO will launch on June 30 at, and will be a free digital tool that will be distributed via email and cell phone notification, as well as in hard copy form to those who need it. 

The primary focus is to help parents ready their child for their first day of kindergarten. 

“It is 40 days of content, where each day the parent will get a 2-3 minute exercise to do with their child at home linked to evidence-based kindergarten readiness skills,” Gies said. “Those are the ABCs, 123s, fine motor skills, and all of that. But there are also things in there for the parents — reminders about kindergarten registration, if all over forms are in order, who to contact at each school district should they have a question.”

Gies said they are in the middle of gathering 40 community partners “to really make this an all hands on deck, community-driven, hyperlocal initiative.” 

He’s hoping to get a wide range of partners, from local attractions/museums, to local businesses, to any other organization vested in the education of young learners.

Gies said it doesn’t take much to get involved. He said it’s as simple as hanging the OK GO banner in the storefront and having “a little incentive” to encourage the parent and child to keep up their 40 days of work leading up to the first day of kindergarten.

He said incentives could be anything from stickers or swag bags to free coffee/snacks to discounts on tickets or shopping.

“This is a win-win. This is helping the community get their children prepared for kindergarten, and if you’re a small business it’s directing immediate traffic into your place of business,” Gies said. 

Members of the Greater Owensboro Partnership for Early Development represent the business, early and K-12 education, local nonprofit, higher education, faith-based, healthcare, and government sectors.

The partnership discovered that access to high quality early childhood education is not accessible to all children in Greater Owensboro for a number of reasons, ranging from affordability and availability of high-quality early learning environments to issues pertaining to recruiting and retaining early childhood educators.

The Greater Owensboro Partnership for Early Development first assembled in June 2021. The partnership’s members met frequently to determine which steps the community needed to take to improve access to early learning opportunities for all children through their engagement with local, statewide, and national early childhood experts and diverse local voices.

Current Early Childhood Education landscape

In their presentation, the group outlined five key points of the current landscape. (More details can be found on pages 5-8 of this document.)

  1. Significant gaps exist in Kindergarten-readiness for children throughout Greater Owensboro.
    • On average, approximately 49% of Greater Owensboro students arrived at Kindergarten unprepared as reported by the Brigance screener in 2019-2020.
    • On average, approximately 59% of economically disadvantaged students, 76% of students with disabilities, and 75% of English learning students arrived at kindergarten unprepared in Greater Owensboro. 
  2. Greater Owensboro students who score below the kindergarten readiness level have a strong likelihood of failing to reach proficiency on the 3rd grade reading test. 
    • On average, 46.9% of Greater Owensboro students failed to reach reading proficiency by the close of 3rd grade as reported by 2018-2019 K-PREP scores. 
    • On average, approximately 55% of economically disadvantaged students, 69% of students with disabilities, and 63.5% of English learning students failed to reach reading proficiency by the close of 3rd grade in Greater Owensboro. 
  3. Only about 20% of Greater Owensboro children under age 5 have access to ECE services.
    • The U.S. Census estimates that 6,773 children under the age of 5 reside in Greater Owensboro.
    • Kentucky’s 2020 Early Childhood Profile estimates that across Greater Owensboro: 
      • 267 children receive care in self-contained Head Start or Early Head Start programs. 
      • 383 children are served through Head Start and Public Preschool or in blended programs. 
      • 700 children are served in a self-contained Public Preschool program. 
      • Of 6,773 children in Greater Owensboro, only 1,350 are enrolled in the above ECE services. 
  4. Access to quality ECE services is not universal 
  5. Disparities in workforce development and professional pay create gaps in access to quality ECE services 

What the recommendations include

Based on the landscape and the feedback from all the sectors, the partnership’s recommendations include (more details can be found on pages 9-10 of this document.):

  1. Recommendation 1: Launch a public advocacy campaign to encourage community-wide support of quality Early Childhood Education.Every community member in Daviess County — families, educators, business owners, and community leaders — must understand how access to quality ECE services benefits not only parents with young children, but the community as a whole.
  2. Recommendation 2: Implement Early Childhood Education talent development and retention strategies to meet Early Childhood Education workforce needs.
  3. Recommendation 3: Implement employee based child care partnerships among employers and child care centers. Small, midsize, and large businesses can be incentivized to offer child care employee benefits to all employees. Public-private partnerships, federal tax incentives, and a matching grant available through the Kentucky Division of Child Care are each pathways to growing child care benefits for Greater Owensboro employers.
  4. Recommendation 4: Identify and enroll all families eligible for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) subsidy and sustain CCAP eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty level and make all children within 200% of the federal poverty level eligible for public preschool. Innovative community partnerships with organizations such as The Center of Owensboro, Audubon Area Community Services, and/or Owensboro Public Schools/Daviess County Schools can close gaps in access for enrollment in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) for families at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. 
  5. Recommendation 5: Raise the quality of all child care centers to 3 STARS or above and clear the Head Start, preschool, and child care waiting lists for all children under age 5. The Daviess County Child Care Community Council can partner with entities such as Child Care Aware and/or Lakeshore Learning to coach child care centers rated below 3 STARS to raise their quality ratings.
  6. Recommendation 6: Utilize data to monitor for continuous improvement of educational outcomes for children enrolled in Early Childhood Education programs.

June 10, 2022 | 12:10 am

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