NORMAN — Oklahoma is often held up as the national poster child for offering early childhood education to many students.
But according to state officials and educators, the system has a serious weakness: Data about each student’s academic profile is not shared between early childhood education program providers and school districts, or between providers.
That prevents kindergarten teachers from being able to immediately target students’ learning needs when they arrive, officials say. It also prevents providers from doing the same when a child transfers from one program to another or is enrolled in more than one program.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education plans to roll out a pilot program in eight school districts this spring that is meant to help districts and early childhood education programs share student data with each other.
The pilot program will start in the Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Union, Putnam City, Norman, Durant, El Reno and Prague school districts. It should expand statewide by the 2015-2016 school year.
John Kraman, the department’s executive director of student information, said academic data is tracked by individual early childhood education programs but not shared with districts or other programs, meaning struggling students run the risk of falling through the cracks as they transition to elementary school. That is evident in the thousands of students who are at risk of failing third grade this year because they cannot read at grade level.
About 42,755 students ages 3 and 4 are in the state’s public early childhood education programs. The programs include transitional kindergarten, often offered by school districts; Head Start, which gets federal and state funding; pre-K education, which can be public or private but is often run separately; special education; and subsidized child care.
“I don’t think anyone alone is going to get all the kids across the finish line, especially with students who are currently struggling,” Kraman said, referring to both the third-grade reading requirement and high school graduation rates.