Countdown to Kindergarten (CTK) is a First Steps program based on other successful school transition models from around the country. Is goals are:
- to increase the successful transition of South Carolina's most at-risk children into the K-12 school system;
- to increase parent involvement in the early grades (particularly in hard-to-reach communities), when children's learning is foundational for life success; and
- to increase public awareness of the importance of school readiness and provide ways for parents and communities to impact children's early school success
Teachers make six visits over the summer to the homes of participation students and families. Visits are hour-long sessions whereby children and families are introduced to actual materials used in kindergarten and are given a Kindergarten Transition Toolkit (backpack filled with books, puzzles, clay, blocks, floor mats, etc.) to keep.
The last visit is a "field trip" to the school where the child will attend class in the fall. Individual schools celebrate with parent and child meeting their peers and their school principal. EdVenture Children's Museum in Columbia hosts a statewide CTK celebration each summer.
Throughout the summer, First Steps releases tips to statewide media to help parents and caregivers get children ready for kindergarten.
Jasper County School District recruits students by having the teacher contact qualifying children based on First Steps standards. Some have face-to-face group meetings after initial contact to review expectations and to answer questions.