• Schools must be ready for children and families.
Even though kindergarten is not part of compulsory educa-
tion in every state, in 2005 about three-quarters of children in the
United States attended a half-day or full-day public kindergarten
(Editorial Projects in Education 2007). Look at the big discount-
store displays in August to realize the importance of schooling in
our culture. Families view kindergarten as the official first year of
school; yet, not all schools treat children and families in the same
way. Some schools are warm and welcoming places, while oth-
ers are cold and unwelcoming. The latter is particularly true for
immigrant families, families of color, and families in poverty. In
focus groups, these families complain about a lack of respect and
worry that their children are not being accepted.
Family involvement is at its highest in kindergarten and
tends to decline thereafter. If they feel welcome and connected,
families with kindergarteners are open and ready to develop loy-
alty to the school and the school district. For the school district,
this first year is the most critical opportunity to engage families
as partners in education. The maxim “There is only one time
to make a good first impression” applies here. Rather than only
asking parents to adapt to the rules and views of the school, it is
important for the school to learn what families want and expect.
This honors parents’ hopes and dreams for their children and
engages them positively as partners in education right from the
beginning (Doucet and Tudge 2007).
• Coordination and planning make the transition to
Families expect a smooth path from preschool to kindergar-
ten. Not only is learning continuity for children important, but it
is also the law for children in early childhood special education
(Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004)
and for children of low-income families (No Child Left Behind
Act of 2001; Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of