Until 2015, Anne Arundel County Public Schools used the Maryland Model for School Readiness assessment as an early measure of child development and social and emotional readiness for kindergarten. Using that measure, from 2007-2014 Anne Arundel County’s readiness figures increased from 69% to 86%, although students scoring lowest were the low-income and English Language Learners at 78% and 72% respectively. (Maryland State Department of Education, 2014). In 2015, a new kindergarten readiness tool was introduced; Ready4Kindergarten or R4K. The tool includes an Early Learning Assessment that measures the progress of learning in young children (36 months to school age) and the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA). The readiness scores for 2015 cannot be compared to 2014 because the two tests are entirely different. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students are showing an increase in behavior problems at every income level and every geographic area (AACPS, 2015.) Children’s mental health and behavioral issues, especially for infants and toddlers, are a continuing need in the county. The Behavioral and Emotional Supports and Training program (BEST,) is a promising practice. It is the only behavior management program for the 0-5 population in the county. It is considered by many to be a national model for working with young children with emotional and behavioral problems and autism. BEST is coordinated by Anne Arundel Community College’s TEACH Institute & Parenting Center. Behavior Specialists provide behavioral and emotional support and training to parents and child care providers for children exhibiting challenging behaviors.
Behavioral and Emotional Support and Training (BEST)
The pre-school period is critical for building a foundation that will prevent or address the development of disruptive behavior that will lead to delinquency. The potential for child delinquency may be present in children as young as two years (Keenan, 2001). According to the new readiness for kindergarten test (R4K), only 43% of Anne Arundel County’s children entered kindergarten classrooms demonstrating the skills and behaviors needed to fully participate in kindergarten. When achievement data is disaggregated for FARMS children the achievement gap is very clear. Low income students in the 8th grade are 17.1 points behind in reading, 34 points behind in math and 26 points behind in science. The 2015 community needs assessment noted the lack of mental health services for the early childhood population and the disparity for FARMS and minority children in terms of readiness.