Kindergarten and early childhood special education teachers' perceptions of skills needed for success in kindergarten
The debate of what skills are needed for a child to be ready to enter kindergarten has gone on for years. The original purpose of kindergarten in the United States was for children to have an opportunity to learn social skills in a supportive and loving environment (Ross, 1976). Kindergartens of today have a much different look and the corresponding skills needed for children entering kindergarten have changed dramatically. Many more children participate in preschool programs than ever before. One of the programs in existence is early childhood special education. Its purpose is to identify and work with children ages 3-5 with developmental delays. The philosophy is to identify delays early, intervene, and support growth in the delayed areas. Many of the children served in early childhood special education will go on to enter a regular kindergarten class when they are old enough. One purpose of early childhood special education is to prepare the children to function in the next environment as independently as possible. To accomplish this task it is important for programs to identify what is expected of a kindergarten student to be successful. The issue of brain development and research on how the brain is impacted by a rich and stimulating environment is important to consider (Kotulak, 1996, 1997). Providing a stimulating environment in an early childhood special education setting can have a positive impact on children being ready to enter kindergarten with the needed skills. Information about brain development needs to be considered when looking at programming in preparation for kindergarten. This study's purpose was to determine if differences in perceptions of the needed skills for kindergarten readiness exist between early childhood special education teachers and kindergarten teachers, and if differences exist, in what areas do the two groups differ. In general, this study found that there were no significant differences in the skills perceived to be necessary for children entering kindergarten by early childhood special education and kindergarten teachers. Both groups of teachers rated skills that were social in nature as highly desirable. The skills that were not rated as highly desirable were those that were more academic in nature. The data from this study indicates that if children enter school with self-confidence and the necessary social skills, teachers can teach them the academic content being demanded in today's kindergarten classrooms. The skills identified as necessary for success in kindergarten can be used to guide in the development of curriculum for early childhood special education programs. Programs can use this information to self-analyze their programs, make changes, and enhance the early childhood experience for children with developmental delays.