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The implicit idea of the “ready school” probably goes back to the annual task of preparing schools for the start of a new year. The explicit and increasingly important concept of the ready school is more recent. It grew out of President George H. W. Bush’s 1989 “Education Summit” in Charlottesville, Virginia, with the National Governors Association. That meeting produced the National Education Goals and the appointment of a National Education Goals Panel consisting of eight governors, four members of Congress, four state legislators, and two members of the Bush administration.

To the National Education Goals Panel (NEGP), ensuring that children start school ready to learn was vitally important, but ensuring that schools are ready for children was equally important. To that end, the NEGP established the Ready Schools Resource Group, led by Sharon Lynn Kagan of Columbia University and Asa Hilliard of Georgia State University.

The Resource Group’s 1998 report reflected the NEGP’s concerns and interests: “While other efforts are now under way to determine how we can better prepare young children to enter our schools, this report asks: How can we prepare schools to receive our children? How can we make sure that schools are ready for the children and families who are counting on them?”

The report identified 10 keys to ready schools:

  1. Ready schools smooth the transition between home and school.
  2. Ready schools strive for continuity between early care and education programs and elementary schools.
  3. Ready schools help children learn and make sense of the complex and exciting world.
  4. Ready schools are committed to the success of every child.
  5. Ready schools are committed to the success of every teacher and every adult who interacts with children during the school day.
  6. Ready schools introduce or expand various approaches that have been shown to raise achievement.
  7. Ready schools are learning organizations that alter practices and programs if they do not benefit children.
  8. Ready schools serve children in communities.
  9. Ready schools take responsibility for results.
  10. Ready schools have strong leadership.

Since the publication of the Ready School report, state educational departments have begun to emphasize ready schools as part of their increasing focus on early childhood and school readiness.

The aim of the High/Scope Ready School Assessment is to help schools improve their readiness for all their entering children. With the support of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, High/Scope is working with early childhood community leaders, early childhood educators, and elementary education experts to develop, validate, and disseminate the Ready School Assessment tool.