If you haven’t started your 2020-2021 school year yet (in terms of the fiscal year, that is), then you’re going to be starting soon.  If you’re a faith-based elementary school that has ties to a church or churches, then make this the year to follow the words of Scripture: “See, I do a new thing” (Is 43:19).  And, this, you’re definitely going to have to do some new “things” (plural)!!

Many schools continue to be worried this year because their Kindergartens are not as full as they have been in the past, but seem to be happy if there are 20 to 25 students enrolled in Kindergarten for the coming year, especially if your school’s 8th grade has 18 students.  However, if you lead or work in a K-8 environment, then chances are that there will be about 10 of those 20 remaining in your school as 8th graders in nine years.  The practice of “replacing” the number of students “aging out” of our school with the same number of students in Kindergarten is the reason school enrollment continues to erode.  While there is no empirical research data to support this assertion, the number of students in Kindergarten are about double the amount of students in that class cohort by the time it reaches 8th grade, and that trend has held true since the 1960’s into the 1970’s.

Why is there no research?  It would need to be longitudinal.  Definitely 9 years to track one cohort of K-8 progression, but then multiple cohorts would need to tracked over a number of years in a number of different places.  A comprehensive study would take 15 to 20 years, and there are two problems with that:  First, people want answers NOW…not 20 years from now, and second, in 20 years, what would be the result?  Would leaders say, “Ah, so that’s the issue!   Now, what do we do to correct it?  How long will that take?”

Rather than dwelling in the research, here’s a suggestion for action.

If you STILL don’t have a Pre-K program at your school, this would be the year to strongly consider instituting one, or at least plan for one for next year, since it will provide a feeder for your Kindergarten program.  Of course, I’ve heard schools with PK programs say, “Oh no – you don’t understand.  Those children only come here for Pre-K because we’re competitively priced with other PK programs in the area.  Then the children leave for public school when it’s time to enter Kindergarten.”  That’s when I ask, “Do you include the parents of Pre-K students in your school’s activities, and treat them like they are part of your K+ program?”  The usual response is, “Well, no, not really, because they’re only in our Pre-K program, and since they’re only here a few hours a day (or week!), and we don’t expect their parents to attend PTG/PTA/PSA (or whatever acronym you call your parent organization) meetings or participate in other programs that we have for our regular parents.”

If that sounds like your response, that’s the problem.  If they’re a part of your school, they’re a part of your school.  Make them and their parents a part of your school’s community.

If you do have a Pre-K program, next week we’ll look at the second step of Baby Steps Marketing – getting parents to your Pre-K program.

If you do have a Pre-K program, and you’re including those parents in your “regular” parent-teacher meetings and encouraging them to be a part of your school community – yet, they’re still not enrolling in your Kindergarten, we’ll look at that the following week.

In the meantime, the Allendale-Columbia School has had a PK program in place for a number of years – and now they’re starting a full-year nursery/daycare curriculum!  It’s no longer PK-12…it’s N-12!  See https://allendalecolumbia.org/littleschool/ for a preview!

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2010-2020 (Original Publication Date: 20100705)