Spencer Foundation Funds Study on Transition to Kindergarten

Eric Grodsky (sociology) received a grant from the Spencer Foundation for the project "The Madison Education Partnership: Collaborating around the Transition to Kindergarten." Together with co-principal investigators Elizabeth Vaade, Caroline Racine Gilles, and Culleen Witthuhn of the Madison Metropolitan School District, Grodsky will lead a project to address the challenges facing children and families as students begin five-year-old kindergarten through two studies. Beth Graue (curriculum and instruction) and Katherine Magnuson (social work) will also contribute to the project.

In the first study, Grodsky and his colleagues will examine the ways schools plan for the 4K-5K transition. Through document review and interviews, the researchers hope to better understand how school staff design structures to facilitate smooth transitions and identify areas where schools can build on current successes and address gaps. For the second study, the researchers will work with a team of experienced 4K and 5K teachers to co-design two home visits held the summer before children enter elementary school. The visits are intended to help teachers learn about the strengths children and families bring to 5K. Graue will co-lead the second study with Grodsky and colleagues from the school district.

The researchers hope that the visits will help teachers and families create a happy, engaged, and successful first year of school. "We hope that meeting a child and family literally where they are will help teachers develop a stronger sense of the strengths and resources children bring to their classrooms as well as the challenges they face," said Grodsky. "We also think that this time together outside of school will help parents feel more comfortable with their child’s teacher and make the child’s classroom a more welcoming place for parents."