Camp K Promoting ‘Readiness’ for Hamilton County Students, Parents and Teachers

Throughout the month of June, a free kindergarten readiness program called Camp K is providing access to the foundations of learning for rising kindergartners, while also providing learning sessions and resources for parents of participating students, and preparing future teachers for the classroom.

“Early childhood development and education is critical to long term success for our community,” said Molly Blankenship, Interim Executive Director, Chattanooga 2.0. “Camp K is a great example of focusing on long term attainment and investments, not just short term strategies, to change the way education happens in Hamilton County.”

Made possible by the partnership and investment of Hamilton County Schools, Chattanooga 2.0, and members of the Early Matters Chattanooga coalition, Camp K was created as a free kindergarten readiness program open to all Hamilton County rising kindergartners.

Camp K provides access to foundational English and literacy skills and social-emotional experiences to over 400 students, many of whom have not had access to preschool instruction. Hamilton County Department of Education develops the Camp K curriculum, which is aligned to kindergarten learning outcomes.

“Based off the results from the pilot program last year, we’ve found that Camp K is working,” said Becky Covington, Director of Early Learning, Hamilton County Department of Education. “Out of 211 students enrolled in 2018, 87 students improved their kindergarten readiness score by 10 or more total points while 53 students improved their score by 20 or more total points. Additionally, 50% of Camp K students score ‘on target’ on their kindergarten screening.”

This year, schools representing each of Hamilton County’s five Learning Communities hosted Camp K with 12 out of 15 sites having waiting lists for both students and parents.

Parents of participating students engage in weekly learning sessions hosted by community partners who provide take-home resources to help parents prepare their children for kindergarten over the summer. Topics for the weekly parent engagement sessions cover an array of topics, including First Things First curriculum, the Chattanooga Basics, literacy training, and ACEs awareness. Upon completion of Camp K, parents are also equipped with information from Tech Goes Home on digital literacy along with electronic handouts from the sessions. By the end of the month, parents have also formed a community of support to rely on through the start of the school year.

“The parent engagement sessions are extremely beneficial for all parents because they provide information and access to resources– they even provide translators for ESL (English as a Second Language) parents,” said Jennifer Croft, parent of a participating pre-K student. “I now have tools and ideas of how to occupy my children with educational activities, like counting backwards or noticing colors of their surroundings, to train their brains to function differently.”

“Each of the weekly parent engagement sessions is focused on a different topic, such as the Chattanooga Basics, which are five key strategies parents can use to give their child a jumpstart at life,” said Molly Blankenship, Interim Executive Director of Chattanooga 2.0. “Chattanooga 2.0 has played an integral role in the parent engagement component of Camp K by connecting organizations and volunteers with parents so they can apply these lessons at home and are prepared to be a champion for their child’s education.”

Each class is comprised of 15 rising kindergartners and is taught by an experienced master teacher from a District school along with a new (first or second-year) teacher assistant, providing a minimum 2:15 teacher-student ratio in all classrooms.

“Camp K is tremendously helpful because it exposes our youngest learners to classroom experiences, like sitting in a group of classmates, holding a pencil, learning letter sounds or names of letters and beginning to learn to read,” said Kelly Piazza, Camp K master teacher and kindergarten teacher at Bess T. Shepherd. “Regardless of what level they are on, we meet each student where he or she is to teach them to work independently and get them on track to succeed in kindergarten.”

Students from the Education Departments of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga and Chattanooga State also provide support and gain authentic classroom experience. The college students are able to count Camp K teaching hours towards their degree requirements.

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Chattanooga 2.0 is a community-led movement to transform education and workforce opportunities in Hamilton County. By engaging the Chattanooga community around initiatives to reshape and improve public education outcomes for all students, Chattanooga 2.0 supports local talent in taking full advantage of the workforce opportunities that are available.

Hamilton County School District is comprised of 79 schools covering Pre-K through grade twelve with nearly 2,800 full-time teachers responsible for educating over 44,500 students. To learn more about the Hamilton County Department of Education, click here.

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