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Early Years Column

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Large numbers of Chicago children arrive at school "unprepared to learn,'' according to a Chicago Sun-Times survey.

The 168 Chicago kindergarten teachers polled by the newspaper said half their pupils entered school unable to recite their first and last names, speak in full sentences, identify basic colors, hold a pencil or crayon, or listen to a brief story. Fewer than half could settle disputes without physical aggression.

The paper, which attributed the trend partly to family problems and poor parenting skills, also polled teachers in the more affluent suburb of Wilmette and found readiness ratings much higher.

The survey showed that Chicago children who went to preschool were better off, but that few schools have taken advantage of a 1988 reform law allowing schools to use state Chapter 1 money to pay for preschool programs.

Some states are trying to boost children's readiness for school with programs to ease the transition from preschool, a National Governors' Association study shows.

The report, which describes state and local efforts, says transition programs should insure that preschool and early-elementary practices are developmentally appropriate, promote parent involvement, provide family-support services, and improve communication between preschools and elementary schools.

Copies of "Transitions to School" are available for $19.50 each from N.G.A. Publications, P.O. Box 421, Annapolis Junction, Md. 20701.

The Michigan education department has awarded grants to expand the use of multi-age classrooms in the early grades.

The grants went to 33 districts that already had multi-age programs or were prepared to start last fall. A 1993 law endorsed the model, which aims to help children advance at their own pace while working with peers of different ages. A state conference on the topic is set for Nov. 2.

Teaching Strategies Inc. has published a new curriculum framework for the early grades. The guide grew out of a project in Washington to extend approaches used in Head Start into elementary schools. Copies of "Constructing Curriculum for the Primary Grades" are available for $39.95 each from Teaching Strategies, P.O. Box 42243, Washington, D.C. 20015.

--Deborah L. Cohen

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