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As Transitional Kindergarten (TK) is expanded to gradually serve all 4-year-olds, it will be important to have a robust communications plan to inform families in your district if and when their child is eligible to enroll and explaining the benefits of TK.
How families think about TK and whether they support it will be critical to its success as younger four-year-olds are introduced to the classroom. With TK, delivering information about the program and how expansion will work in your district in a personal, accessible way from a messenger they can relate to and trust is very important.
Make sure information about TK eligibility and enrollment is available and easily visible on the school/district’s website. Offer information on the TK curriculum and benefits of sending children to TK, as well as regular updates on TK expansion. Post information and updates on the school/district’s social media channels.
Giving families an opportunity to engage in one-on-one conversations with teachers and principals about TK is pivotal to outreach. This has been the most important recruitment tool for many school districts. Communicating with families at this level gives them an opportunity to share their questions and concerns about TK. It also gives teachers and principals a chance to share positive information about the program and address misinformation families may have heard.
Organizing parent meetings offers a forum for districts to provide information about TK and discuss your district’s TK expansion plan, as well as encourage dialogue and questions from families. Small group meetings (three to six parents) have been shown to be much more effective than large group meetings because they allow more time and space to share information and provide an opportunity to correct misinformation in a productive way.
Districts can assign a designated staff member(s) to serve as a community liaison on TK. TK liaisons should be knowledgeable about how the district is expanding TK (particularly if your district has decided to expand on a more rapid timeline than the state mandate), have access to all outreach materials, list their contact information on letters and other materials, and present at parent information sessions to help families feel comfortable in reaching out to them in the future.
Parents trust other parents when it comes to information about their children’s education. They offer a peer-to-peer perspective that helps validate information from the school or district. Having parents who can act as ambassadors for TK has proven to be one of the strongest assets in TK recruitment efforts across the state. Ambassadors who are members of language or cultural groups that are common in your district can be particularly helpful in explaining the benefits of TK in a culturally competent way. Candidates for parent ambassadors might include:
Engagement ideas for parent ambassadors might include some of the following strategies:
As you conduct your outreach and recruitment for TK, you can consider providing local community partners in your area with information about TK expansion and how it impacts the communities they serve. Ensure that contact information is available for these organizations to ask questions. Identify two to five community partners that could help champion your TK program and schedule informational meetings for them with your principal. Other ideas for collaborating with community partners include:
Media is an important source of information for many families. Families regularly use broadcast and print media to learn about education-related issues and keep up-to-date on community news. In communities with large ethnic populations, ethnic media is an especially trusted source of information and can be an extremely powerful messenger for information about TK.
Make newspaper articles and other media coverage available to families in any outreach materials related to TK. If possible, incorporate video clips from TV news into presentations about the benefits of TK. See TK in the News >
Work with your Public Information Officer to reach out to local media outlets and present them with information about your TK program. This could be a press release outlining your expansion plans or a phone call to your local newspaper, TV, or radio station’s education reporter or assignment editor to explain the benefits of your program, the changes you are making as you expand to younger children, and when younger children will be eligible to enroll. You can also invite local media outlets to tour your TK classrooms and talk with families about the program.