Successful program developed at Pitt has expanded to 20 other states
PITTSBURGH—New kindergarten students at ten Pittsburgh Public Schools will be welcomed on Aug. 28—the first day of school—by groups of parents and supportive volunteers and friends, including the “Ready Freddy” green frog mascot, the symbol of the program developed by the University of Pittsburgh's Office of Child Development that helps to make the first day of kindergarten easier for little ones.
The Pitt-created program, which now serves as a model for similar programs nationwide, is designed to increase awareness about the importance of kindergarten and to help ease the transition from the home to the classroom. Months before the annual first-day-of-school festivities with “Ready Freddy” begin, staff members canvass city neighborhoods, enroll youngsters in kindergarten, take parents on virtual tours of the schools, and share activity calendars and an interactive Web book with families.
“Nearly half of all children struggle with the transition to kindergarten, according to national studies,” said Ken Smythe-Leistico, assistant director of Pitt's Office of Child Development. “Late arrivals and poor initial attendance are considered significant predictors for school failure. The Ready Freddy Program targets those children most likely to be absent on the first day,” he said.
Before Pitt launched “Ready Freddy” in 2008, kindergarten enrollment at some Pittsburgh schools had been low, with as few as 12 students attending the first day of class. Now, enrollment has surpassed projected figures at several local sites.
Due to the program’s record of success, it has expanded, in some form, to school districts in 20 other states. Schools in York, Pa., Buffalo, N.Y., and Fredericksburg, Va., are among the locations that have held Ready Freddy Kindergarten Kickoffs in recent years. Other states with school districts adopting the model include North Carolina, Oregon, and Connecticut.
In Pittsburgh, the United Way of Allegheny County partners with Pitt for the kindergarten kickoff. The group will be at the following kindergartens Aug. 28 to welcome and encourage new students and their parents: