Kindergarten Readiness


Research shows that success in school begins before kids ever set foot in a kindergarten classroom. If a child is ready for kindergarten on the first day of school, he or she is less likely to fall behind their peers in learning. And we know that children who start out behind, tend to stay behind. In fact, nearly 2/3 of students who reach 4th grade without proficient reading skills end up on welfare or in prison. The benefit of kindergarten readiness includes raising lifetime wages and reducing the likelihood that children will drop out of school.

There are over 100,000 children 0-6 years old living in the seven county area covered by Metro United Way. 47% of kids in our community are not ready to enter

kindergarten ready to learn. That’s why one of our community aspirations is that all children will enter kindergarten ready to learn.

Today we stand at a unique threshold of opportunity for our community; our Mayor has chosen Metro United Way to be the community-wide convener in transforming Early Care and Education, based on our significant work in early childhood education including our most recent achievements with our Excellence Academy (EA) early learning centers.

Kindergarten Countdown begins June 1st, for all children entering kindergarten this fall. For resources and a summer events schedule supporting children's transitions into kindergarten, click HERE.


Excellence Academy Logo

Established in 2011 through a generous gift from the Lift a Life Foundation, our Excellence Academy guides and rewards preschool teachers who are working hard to grow high quality curriculum in classrooms throughout the region. As teachers make changes to their classrooms and consistently demonstrate new skills in their teaching methods, they progress through the Academy. Teachers begin with a "Novice" level title with the potential to grow to become a "Master" level teacher. And as they progress, they receive financial compensation - as both a reward for their hard work and as an incentive to stay in the child care center.

Research shows that success in school begins before kids ever set foot in a classroom. National estimates indicate that anywhere between 33%-50% of children enter school behind in one or more areas of development. And when children start out behind, they are likely to stay behind.

By focusing our efforts on making sure all children come to school prepared to succeed, and then giving those same children the support they need to graduate from high school on time, Metro United Way will have a profound, positive impact on our community for years to come. This is how we Live United.

Excellent Academy Values

Love Learning l Build Communities l Transform Lives

Therefore we:

  •    Appreciate uniqueness and diversity
  •    Support individuals and their growth
  •    Expect integrity in relationships
  •    Provide opportunities to discover the joy of learning
  •    Celebrate pride in our achievements

EA Teachers Pic

Training Excellent Teachers

Ensuring that young children have both involved and intentional teachers is one of the most critical elements to achieving school readiness. Our teachers receive hands-on mentoring through a partnership with Community Coordinated Child Care (4-C) to help improve quality in their individual classrooms. As teachers make changes in their classrooms and consistently demonstrate new teaching skills, they progress through the Academy – from Novice to Apprentice, Intern, Scholar and, finally, Master. And, as they advance, they receive financial incentives to support this important career choice.

Our teachers not only benefit by learning from a mentor, but they have opportunities to collaborate with participating centers. Through quarterly trainings, center visits, cohort groups and celebration events, the teachers are able to connect and share best practices with their colleagues.

Inspiring Excellent Kids

While most early learning centers don’t use a set curriculum, EA centers use Creative Curriculum©, a research-based interactive system founded on best practices for early childhood programs. The power in this curriculum is its flexibility. Teachers scaffold the children’s learning by actively creating lessons that build on existing knowledge. Customizing curriculum based on the interests and current abilities meets children where they are, allowing them to develop confidence while supporting their competence.

By promoting the love of learning and creativity in children, we are helping them build lifelong critical thinking and problem solving skills stimulated through play, exploration and discovery. The process of learning together invites opportunities to develop and refine social and emotional skills that set the foundation of a compassionate life.

EA Kids Pic

EA Classroom Pic

Creating Excellent Classrooms

The design and layout of the physical environment – including interior finishes, outdoor spaces, selection of equipment and room arrangement – have a profound impact on children’s learning and behavior as well as on the teachers’ ability to support these early learners.

Our use of Creative Curriculum© provided a natural foundation as we start to incorporate the "Reggio Emilia" approach to early childhood. In this approach, the classroom is thought of as the “third teacher” and includes elements like neutral colors, home-like touches, natural materials and intentional invitations to learn, so children’s curiosity can develop organically within a supportive environment.

Achieving Excellent Results

Through the Excellence Academy we’ve increased quality of early learning in existing centers serving high-risk kids. We’ve produced real results. Nineteen EA teachers have reached the Master level, while 95% of our teachers have been promoted past the Novice level. What does this mean for our kids?

Recent findings suggest that students who participate in the Excellence Academy score higher on measures of physical, language, cognitive and socio-emotional competencies compared to their peers.

EA Results Pic