The survey was designed to obtain information about public school kindergarten teachers' views on a variety of issues that relate to school readiness. These can be roughly grouped into readiness for school, reading readiness, parental roles, and teaching practices. A 5-point scale was used to determine the extent to which teachers agree or disagree with 17 statements (see attached Questionnaire and Table 4 for a complete list of these statements and the response scale). Data presented in this section and in Table 5 combine the "agree" and "strongly agree" response categories.
Most teachers (88 percent) agree with the statement that readiness for school comes as children grow and mature and cannot be pushed (Table 5 and Table A). At the same time, teachers also believe that they can enhance a child's readiness by providing experiences children need to build important skills (94 percent). Only about half (56 percent) believe that children with readiness problems should enter school as soon as they are eligible so that they can be exposed to the things they need, and that preschool experience is very important for success in kindergarten (53 percent). On the other hand, about the same proportion (55 percent) would suggest waiting a year before enrolling a child in kindergarten if the child appears unready for it.
Teachers in high poverty schools, those with high minority enrollments in their kindergarten classes, and black, non-Hispanic teachers are more likely to think that children with readiness problems should enter school as soon as they are eligible so they can be exposed to the things they need. Sixty-seven percent of teachers in high poverty schools and 66 percent teaching classes with high minority enrollments recommend entrance upon eligibility for children with readiness problems (compared with 43 to 54 percent, respectively, in low and medium poverty schools, and 52 to 53 percent, respectively, teaching classes with low or medium minority enrollments). Three-fourths (76 percent) of black, non- Hispanic teachers advocate non-delay of school entrance compared with 54 percent of white, non-Hispanic teachers.
These same groups of teachers also support more strongly the idea that attending preschools is very important for success in kindergarten (63 percent of those in high poverty schools compared with 40 percent in low poverty schools, and 68 percent in classes with high minority enrollments compared with 42 percent in low minority classes). Black, non-Hispanic and other minority teachers (74 percent for each) also are more inclined to consider preschool important for kindergarten success than their white, non-Hispanic counterparts (50 percent), as area large proportion of teachers in city schools (64 versus 42 to 51 percent in other locales).
Generally, a minority of public school kindergarten teachers believe that children who begin formal reading and math instruction in preschool will do better in elementary school. Overall, only 30 percent think that preschool instruction of this type has a lasting value (Table 5 and Table B). Only 15 percent of kindergarten teachers believe that most children should learn to read in kindergarten. In addition, 44 percent believe that kindergarten children should not be given reading instruction unless they show an interest.
Not all groups of teachers hold similar views. Teachers in schools with higher levels of poverty are more inclined m believe in the value of early formal instruction. Whereas only 18 percent of teachers in schools with low poverty believe that children exposed to formal reading and math instruction in preschool will do better in elementary school, this view is held by 25 percent of teachers in schools with medium poverty and 43 percent in schools that have high levels of poverty. Teachers in classes with high minority enrollments are also more likely to believe early formal instruction will have a lasting positive effect (44 percent compared with 24 and 25 percent in classes with low and medium minority enrollments). Black, non-Hispanic teachers are considerably - more likely to perceive a benefit from formal instruction in preschool than white, non-Hispanic teachers (67 versus 26 percent), with teachers belonging to other racial/ethnic groups (40 percent) falling in the middle.
Black, non-Hispanic teachers are also more likely than white, non- Hispanic teachers (39 versus 12 percent) to believe that children should learn to read in kindergarten. Those in schools with high levels of poverty (21 percent versus 8 percent in schools with low levels of poverty) and in classes with large minority enrollments (20 percent versus 12 percent in classes with low minority enrollments) are also more likely to feel this way.
Reading to children and playing counting games at home regularly are the most widely agreed upon ways parents can contribute to their young children's preparation for school and learning. Almost all (99 percent) public school kindergarten teachers feel that parents should read to their children and play counting games at home regularly (Table 5 and Table C). Ensuring that a child knows the alphabet before starting kindergarten is viewed as less important. Overall, only 27 percent of all kindergarten teachers feel that this is important for school readiness, as compared to 57 percent of black, non-Hispanic teachers. To a lesser degree, teachers in schools in the city, in schools with high poverty status, and in classes with high minority enrollments are also more likely to agree that parents should make sure their children start school knowing the alphabet compared with ail teachers (from 34 to 36 percent, respectively).
About half (49 percent) of kindergarten teachers believe that parents should set aside time every day for their kindergarten children to practice school work. This practice receives the greatest support from teachers in large schools, city schools, and schools with high poverty levels; of classes with high minority enrollments; and from minority teachers. Almost two-thirds of teachers in large schools (63 percent) believe that parents should set aside time daily for their children to practice schoolwork, compared with 43 percent in small schools and 48 percent in medium schools. Similarly, 58 percent of teachers in city schools advocate this practice, compared with 39 to 48 percent of teachers in other locales. In schools with high poverty levels, 64 percent of kindergarten teachers agree with this practice, whereas in schools with medium or low poverty levels, the proportions decrease to 32 percent and 43 percent, respectively. Teachers in classes with high minority enrollments am more likely to favor this practice (69 percent) than are teachers in classes with small (38 percent) or medium (41 percent) minority enrollments. Less than half (46 percent) of white, non-Hispanic teachers advocate this parental practice, compared with 68 percent of black, non-Hispanic teachers and 65 percent of those of all other races.
Teachers overwhelmingly believe that one of the best ways to help children learn to read is by reading to them; 97 percent of ail public school kindergarten teachers agree with this statement (Table 5 and Table D). Conversely, only 14 percent think that the best way to learn how to read is to practice matching letters and sounds over and over. Teachers in high poverty schools (21 percent) are more likely to believe in the importance of matching letters than are teachers in low (8 percent) or medium poverty (12 percent) schools. Black, non-Hispanic teachers (45 percent) advocate this practice more than white, non-Hispanic teachers (12 percent) and those of other races (11 percent).
Almost 1 in 5 public school kindergarten teachers (19 percent) believe it is appropriate to give kindergartners homework every day. This attitude is more prevalent among teachers in large schools (33 percent), city schools (33 percent), high poverty schools (29 percent), and high minority enrollment classes (34 percent), and among those of minority racial/ethnic groups (41 percent for black, non-Hispanic and 40 percent for other races).
Only 27 percent of all kindergarten teachers assume that by the end of the kindergarten year all children will be ready for first grade. Minority teachers are more likely to expect aJ1 their kindergartners to be ready to move on to first grade than non-minority teachers (39 and 42 percent for Mack, non-Hispanic and all other races, respectively, compared to 24 percent for white, non-Hispanic). Seventy percent of all public school kindergarten teachers indicate that they would hesitate to send children to first grade if they felt the children were not ready for the demands that they will meet there.
Regarding the transition to first grade, 85 percent of kindergarten teachers indicate that they communicate with the first grade teachers so that those teachers can proceed from where the kindergarten teacher has left off. The prevalence of this type of communication does not vary by school or teacher characteristics.