What Is P-3 Alignment and Why Is It Important?

 by Emily Bustos, Executive Director

Emily Bustos

Pre-Kindergarten through 3rd Grade Alignment, or P-3, is a comprehensive systems strategy focused on ensuring all children develop the cognitive and social skills that establish strong foundations for future learning and that both children and their families are supported at key transition points.

Why are transitions so important?

By improving the transition into kindergarten, targeted students are better positioned for academic success and more likely to become proficient readers by third grade. Research has shown that students who are proficient in reading by third grade maintain greater academic achievement and are four times more likely to graduate from high school than their peers who have already fallen behind.

In addition:
  • Evidence suggests that children who have a positive start to school are likely to engage well and experience academic and social success.
  • Transitions into school may be a child’s first experience of social interaction with others outside their immediate or extended family.
  • Children’s perceptions of themselves as learners, and as someone who belongs at school, are often formed early in their schooling.
  • Transitions to school should build on children’s prior learning and develop strong links between parents, pre-k providers, and school.
  • There is much to be learned from parents and pre-k providers about what children already know when they enter school.
 P-3 Alignment Promising Practices:
  • Commitment to coordination and regular information exchange, including student data
  • Shared professional development opportunities – paired with follow-up coaching
  • Learning walks – peer classroom observation within the same grades and between different level grades
  • Kindergarten visits
  • Parent support groups
  • Partnering with home visitation programs
  • Facilitated play and learn groups
  • Preschool partner professional learning communities
  • Aligned approaches and curriculums

Citation: Promising Practices in Developing Effective PreK-3 Partnerships, Learning for Action, September 2014.

Girl pointing at computer screen

In Denver there are several efforts underway that strive to ensure that we are implementing best and promising practices in P-3 alignment for the benefit of Denver’s young children.

Denver Public Schools Birth to Eight Roadmap

Early childhood leaders in Denver have launched the Birth to Eight Roadmap project, a new initiative that seeks to dramatically improve outcomes and close opportunity and achievement gaps by investing in the city’s youngest learners. With local philanthropic support, Denver Public Schools (DPS), the Mayor’s Office of Children Affairs, and Denver’s early childhood community will articulate a shared roadmap for serving children ages birth through eight years old.

The primary goal of the project is to support and empower families living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty so that young children in these neighborhoods reach their developmental potential and succeed in school and in life – starting with early language and literacy.

Objectives: The Roadmap project will:
  • Summarize the current landscape of programming and supports currently available to children ages birth to eight years living in Denver.
  • Leverage available research and examples of best practices for young children and their families to promote school readiness.
  • Provide recommendations to DPS and the Denver community regarding partnerships to strengthen existing programs or develop new ones. Recommendations will emphasize transition and alignment practices from 0-3 to preschool and preschool to K-12 and programs that provide information promoting engagement and interaction of parents of 0-3-year-old children.
  • The project has included focus groups with parents and teachers working in southwest and northeast Denver, in both English and Spanish.
  • On May 3rd, over 50 early childhood leaders representing a variety of supports, services and sectors (from health to parent leadership) convened for the project’s second Advisory Committee meeting. This committee provided valuable feedback on the perceived level of impact of the draft set of recommendations and linkages with ongoing early childhood work.
  • In the coming month, the Birth to Eight Roadmap Project will finalize its set of recommendations and action steps. A final report will be issued in July 2016.

Countdown to Kindergarten (C2K)

C2K is a partnership of the City of Denver and Denver Public Schools designed to improve third-grade reading scores and overall educational achievement for at-risk students. C2K’s goal is to provide a seamless transition from preschool to kindergarten in order to maximize and build upon gains made, and ensure that all students enter school ready for success. C2K’s pilot program focused on nine Southwest Denver elementary schools plus their early care and education (ECE) programs, and select neighborhood preschools.

  • Align expectations, assessments and educational opportunities around a common definition of kindergarten readiness.
  • Improve communication between preschool and elementary school systems.
  • Provide professional development opportunities for preschool directors, teachers and principals.
  • Engage parents in workshops and other activities that assist them in supporting a seamless and effective transition to kindergarten.
  • Measure program effectiveness in order to improve services and replicate the work in other parts of the city.

Activities included workshops that help parents with choosing the right school for their children as well as activities to help prevent summer learning loss. School principals, community preschool directors, and preschool and kindergarten teachers came together for joint workshops to improve communication across preschool and elementary school systems, align expectations about what it means to be “kindergarten ready,” and develop concrete activities for teachers to use in their classrooms to ensure effective transitions. Teachers also participate in classroom exchanges.

Creating a P-3 Learning Community in Denver

Denver’s Early Childhood Council, Denver Great Kids Head Start, Denver Public Schools, and the Office of Children’s Affairs also recently came together to figure out how to make a smooth pre-K to kindergarten transition a reality for children, families, and programs in Southwest Denver. In early May we held the first event in this project – a Leadership Lunch, convening child care Directors and School Leaders to learn about the research, look at other successful projects, and start discussing how we can take action to make a better future for the young children we all serve.

If you’re interested in finding out more about P-3, visit our Resource Library, which includes video links (be sure to check out the kid-to-kid advice videos on what to expect in kindergarten), journal articles and more!

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