Speak United

Stemming Summer Learning Loss for Preschool Age Children

July 31, 2017

Jimmy R. Wathen

Specialist, Child Development & Education
Jefferson County Public Schools


According to the Campaign for Grade Level Reading (CGLR), a national group advocating that all children read at grade level by the third grade, summer learning loss is one of several critical areas affecting a child's ability to succeed in school. Other areas include school readiness and chronic absenteeism. CGLR research shows that summer learning loss is particularly stifling for children in poverty. In fact, children in poverty can lose up to two months of reading growth during the summer months if they are not exposed to literacy or other enriching activities.

Nowhere is this more evident than with Louisville's youngest learners enrolled in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) preschool programs. End of year assessments indicate that our students are well on their way to being prepared for kindergarten. However, once the "summer slide" takes effect the gains tend to dissipate once they start kindergarten and are administered the state mandated Brigance assessment.

JimmyWathen_blog2_edit.jpgOne strategy that has been proven effective is one that I am proud to be a part of: Camp Ready4K which is a fun and engaging four week kindergarten readiness program for those children transitioning to kindergarten in the fall. These camps are a key strategy of the Ready for K Alliance partnership for kindergarten readiness which Metro United Way leads in our community.

A cornerstone of the camps is intentional curriculum focused on kindergarten readiness that consists of activities in language development, literacy, and mathematics. Research shows these three areas are the greatest indicators of kindergarten readiness. By providing detailed, aligned lessons, we are able to ensure consistency across all classrooms and provide a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all students. A fully developed curriculum also allows teachers creativity in instructional delivery, while at the same time ensured school readiness skills were taught and learned during the summer program.

Family engagement is also an important part of Camp Ready4K. Events hosted by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) provide hands on kindergarten readiness activities for teachers to utilize with parents and guardians and then parents are invited to the classroom to learn new ways of helping their children with learning at home - all in alignment with the program's curriculum.

JimmyWathen_blog4_edit.jpgThe camps have shown to be consistently correlated with high kindergarten readiness rates (70.5% on the end of summer EMBARK assessment and 77.6% on the Fall Kindergarten Brigance assessment). Both the end of summer EMBARK and Brigance scores are similar to last year's (2015) EMBARK readiness rate of 73%.

Now in its third year, Camp Ready4K continues to provide enriching summer programming all of which could not be done without a combination of district and donations from numerous local individuals and organizations. Through hard work, determination and relentless efforts by our Camp Ready4K staff we are sure to continue to stem the summer learning loss of some of our community's most vulnerable learners.

For more information about the Ready for K Alliance, checkout this VIDEO:



Jimmy Wathen has spent the last eight years as an Early Childhood Specialist with Jefferson County Public Schools. He is passionate about early childhood education and advocates for best practices in our community. A graduate of Western Kentucky University with a Masters in Early Childhood Education from University of Louisville, he started his career teaching in Owensboro, Kentucky in 1995 as a Head Start teacher and spent 14 years teaching preschool and second grade. As a former head start student himself, he was the recipient of a Head Start scholarship that allowed him to attend college. Jimmy is the 2008 Kentucky Department of Education Teacher Achievement Award winner and the 2017 Hilliard Lyons/ Metro United Way Excellence in Early Care and Education Leadership Award winner. He also coordinates JCPS kindergarten readiness camps and serves on the Metro United Way Ready for K Alliance that is charged with tackling the "cradle" portion of Louisville's "cradle to career" framework, part of Metro Government's strategic plan to improve educational outcomes. He's a lover of the great outdoors i.e. hiking, camping, and kayaking. He also has a miniature schnauzer named Beau-Beau and a cat named Buddy and is the youngest of 7 children.