Kindergarten preparedness: A tale of two cities

FORT THOMAS, KY (FOX19) - Fort Thomas and Newport Kentucky are less than five miles apart. But when it comes to how prepared their children are for kindergarten, the distance is far greater.

At Ruth Moyer Elementary School in Fort Thomas, you'll find kindergarten students already ahead of the curve.

"It is so much easier to teach them how to read. Instead of starting all the way back and teaching the alphabet, we are ready to roll with putting sounds together to read words," says kindergarten teacher Julie Steppe.

In fact, 83 percent of children coming into Ruth Moyer and other Fort Thomas elementary schools are considered "Kindergarten Ready" by the State of Kentucky. It is the highest percentage in the region. Principal Matt Haskamp says changes in academic standards throughout the state have pushed both elementary and preschool programs to raise the bar. He says parents in Fort Thomas are doing the same at home for their children.

"We have a community in Ft. Thomas that values education, makes it a priority to enroll their kids into very good preschool programs so when they come to us, we are ready to implement our very rigorous curriculum," says Principal Matt Haskamp.

But just five miles down the road, Newport Primary has a very different number.

"We are the urban school. Yes. We define the urban setting," says Principal Jeanetta Stacy.

Only 24.6 percent of Newport students are identified as "Kindergarten Ready", the lowest percentage in the region. Principal Jeanetta Stacy says less than half of incoming students went to preschool programs which creates a difficult gap for teachers to close.

"We do a lot of double up to catch up. Triple up to catch up. Totally immerse these children in as much literacy and mathematics as we possibly can all day long," says Stacy. "In addition to all those readiness skills that we have to work on, we have to work on all the social skills. So it's kind of like a double duty, a double wammy that you have to deal with and it makes it very difficult."

Principal Stacy says many of those students have already made significant progress since starting kindergarten and the numbers don't define what they are capable of.

"I don't want the community to think that just because that initial data from the state looked so bad that those kids in any way have been written off because they haven't. We have other ways of tracking those kids and we are and they are going to be okay," says Stacy.

Newport Primary is one of the few schools in the area that has kindergarten class all day. Principal Stacy says they hope those extra hours will help get those students back on track.

To view data by school for the entire state, click here:

Copyright 2014 WXIX. All rights reserved.