Ready schools

Ready schools

Ready schools is a term used to describe schools that meet the unique needs of the students and families they serve. The concept of ready schools is part of the larger school readiness movement, which seeks to better prepare children for school and schools for children.


The concept was popularized in the 1990s by the National Education Goals Panel, a taskforce of educators and politicians. The purpose of this taskforce was to set national educational policy in terms of readiness goals for children and schools. This work was discontinued during the first Bush administration with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. Ready schools work was continued at the state level, particularly in North Carolina, and through initiatives led by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The National Educational Goals Panel (1998) recognized that preschool and family support services may not be sufficient to enable children to learn skills that precede an ability to succeed academically. The Panel stated that schools had a responsibility to be ready to meet the needs of children. The ten key principles that the panel considered essential to achieving “ready” schools are that schools must:• Smooth the transition between home and school• Endeavor to achieve continuity between early care and education programs and elementary schools• Help children learn and understand their complex world• Strive to help every child achieve success• Help every teacher and every adult who interacts with children during the school day be successful• Introduce or expand approaches shown to raise achievement• Alter practices and programs if existing ones do not benefit children• Serve children in communities• Take responsibility for results• Have strong leadership

State work

North Carolina

The North Carolina School Goal Team developed a self-assessment instrument for schools. The portion of the instrument described here is very specific in recommending requirements for teachers and administrators and also address types of programs, practices, curricula, and interactions that should occur with children. These expectations go beyond what many states feel they can track and measure. The team specified that:
• Administrators and teachers read, process, and understand the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) Developmentally Appropriate Practices.
• The school use developmentally appropriate assessment instruments. These instruments must identify individual differences and needs and allow a determination of reasonable expectations of children’s capabilities.
• The curriculum address each child’s needs
• Curricula offer learning centers, value “play” as the work of young children, and provide interrelated, hands-on, active learning.
• Curricula have a meaningful context for learning rather than having children learn different skills in isolation.
• Curricula integrate children’s new experiences with their previous experiences through project work and mixed-grouping (ability/age) in a way that is not hurried.
• Teachers use a wide variety of teaching materials and methods.
• Teachers develop children’s social skills with conflict resolution strategies taught in meaningful contexts.
• The daily schedule for children balance open-ended and structured time as well as include daily rituals and routines.
• Teachers use language and communication development as a rich and valued curriculum component.
• Teachers use multicultural materials and nurture the cultural and linguistic diversity of students.
• Teachers assess each child’s growth and development through work samples, student and parent interviews, teacher observations, photographs, etc.
• Teachers practice inclusion, placing children in the least restrictive environment.
• Teachers participate in research-based, state-of-the-art on-going professional development.

Recommendations for facilities are not as extensive and tend to be discussed along with issues such as class size. The same North Carolina self-assessment instrument for schools not only expects that the physical environment is welcoming to children and arranged in learning centers to encourage choice, problem solving, and discovery, but also anticipates the availability of some services on-site. Specifically, children would receive on-site health assessments for physical, vision, and dental health annually (Report of the Ready Schools Goals Team, 2000).

Foundation Initiatives

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation launched the Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) Initiative in 2001 to create community partnerships that prepare children for school and schools for children. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation uses nine [ Pathways to Ready Schools] to frame the ready schools work being done through the SPARK initiative. The nine pathways are:
1. Children succeed in school
2. The school environment encourages a welcoming atmosphere
3. Strong leadership exists at every level
4. The school is connected to early care and education
5. The school connects culturally and linguistically with children and families
6. There is a high level of parental involvement
7. The school forms partnerships with the community
8. The school seeks out and uses assessment results
9. The school constantly seeks to improve its quality

Examples of Ready Schools

The SPARK Initiative Level Evaluation Team identified four diverse schools throughout the United States that display characteristics of ready schools. These schools are International Community School in Decatur, Georgia; Ka 'Umeke Ka'eo Public Charter School in Hilo, Hawaii; La Mesa Elementary School in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Nailor Elementary School in Cleveland, Mississippi (Simons & Curtis, 2007).


National Educational Goals Panel (1998). "Ready Schools." Washington, DC: Author.

Report of the Ready for School Goal Team (2000). "School Readiness in North Carolina Strategies for Defining, measuring, and Promoting Success FOR ALL CHILDREN." North Carolina Office of Education Reform. Available from

Simons, K.A., & Curtis, P. A. (March, 2007). Connecting with communities: Four successful schools. "Young Children (62)2," 12-20.

= Ready Schools Resources =

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