In the 2013/2014 school year we developed and implemented a two sessions of a high quality preschool at James Madison Elementary with funding from the United Way of Northern Utah, Ogden City School District, the YMCA and Ogden City. The model we implemented (from the Granite School District) has strong research and longitudinal data to demonstrate its effectiveness. Utah State University, our independent evaluator, found 40% of participants to have a score below 70 on Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test – which indicates a very strong probability of them needing SPED interventions in the absences of high quality preschool. Here are a few stories from students in the program.
High Quality Preschool (Pilot)
The program will run through July 2014, and we will share program outcomes in August of 2014. There have been 41 youth enrolled in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program at Madison Elementary since January 4th. Currently we have 33 enrolled and attending. We are reaching out the families who have dropped the program and working with them and the school to try and get them to return. Currently we are serving 23 – 4 yr. olds and 10 – 3 yr. olds; 22 Females and 11 Males; 29 Hispanic, 3 White and 1 Asian.
Some Success Stories
There are so many valuable skills acquired in preschool. Yes we teach ABC’s and numbers and colors and shapes, but there are other skills learned that affect the future school career of a child.
Luis – We have a healthy snack every day. It includes a type of fruit. One day we had some red ruby grapefruits. They were sweet and delicious, but none of the kids wanted to try them. We have a “how can you know you don’t like it, if you have never tried it rule”……in theory! Most gave a small taste and decided it was not for them. They put them into the garbage. But we had success that day. Let me tell you how. It takes on average about 14 tastes of a new food for a child to become accustomed to it or “like” it. They were brave enough to try something new, a fruit most had not seen before. That alone is success, but the neat thing was to see was a child named Luis who tried it and with wide eyes said, “teacher I like that.” He ate slice after slice and has asked since that day if we will have grapefruit again. Preschool is about taking chances, trying something new, being brave, and moving outside our comfort zones.
Lizbeth – We sing a lot in preschool. So much knowledge can be retained through repetitive singing of songs. We sing loud, we sing soft, we sing with our sign language and voices. It also shows kids it is ok to be silly and drop barriers some of them have put up to adults and other peers. Most are reluctant, but by the fourth week, we have almost everyone on board the” singing train.” Well, this year we had one hold out. She is a shy girl and just could not join in the singing. She would sit and look downward or watch the others with fearful eyes. Even her speaking voice was only a whisper, and she couldn’t make eye contact with adults. Asking her to stand in front of our class would have been too much, so we waited and let her gain some confidence. About the 11th week, one day as we sang, out of the corner of my eye I saw Lizbeth doing small hand motions along with us. The next day, she was looking down and singing, all the right words. She had heard them over and over for weeks. Now she is a singing girl. It is awesome to watch her bright excited eyes as she stands in front of the class to be our song leader. Each child has a weekly job they help our class with, teaching them responsibility and leadership, and teaching them that team work together makes our classroom function well. I was not sure she would ever be able to do this job, but she did an amazing job.
Joyce – Joyce has struggled with learning the letter that starts her name. Most of the children have this desire to write and know what their name looks like and what it starts with. She has the desire, but the skill was eluding her. She was up front doing her job before our snack. I decided that day to point to letters and ask whose name in our class starts with this letter. There is a fun song we sing to each person. Once it is identified which child begins with that letter, that child would go wash hands for snack. This is a regular exercise for us at the beginning of our school year. Increasing in skill as the year progresses. All children were catching on pretty quickly, except for Joyce. She would guess different letters and then with help settle on J. Well, she was acting really antsy while she was doing her job, I didn’t realize she was anticipating this part of our rug time approaching. I thought she may need a trip to the bathroom. I started in our song about letters and our names, and she blurted out, “J starts Joyce teacher.” She turned and left to wash her hands. Success! The feeling of mastering a skill. Feeling that confidence, that I am smart and I can accomplish great things at school. What a great thing to feel so early in school. How can a child not have success after feeling this over and over again in his preschool experience? This was a self-esteem builder for certain.
Ximena – Most children start the year with a few tears. Some have never been away from home alone. Ximena had this experience. It was an experience that lasted for about three weeks. There was crying and fear, and she didn’t want to be there and certainly didn’t want to be with peers her own age. Her interactions with other children were aggressive and lacked self-control. The other children began to avoid her. She lacked the social skills to function in the classroom. She sat at our learning centers and did little, except to snatch items from other children and get a reaction. Well, at this point it is thrilling to watch her lean in to talk to other children and watch her help other children as they have a moment of tears over something. Her face shows the emotion she is feeling for them. She loves to call out to everyone who is arriving for class. “Hi Irene. Hi Jorge. Hi Vanessa.” She has blossomed. What a valuable skill to begin learning. How to communicate appropriately with others. How to control our body and our voice and our words. How important to learn how to sit and listen, making the kindergarten experience much more valuable, because that skill has been mastered. How to play nice. The world would be a better place, if we could all just play nice!
Tania, Ximena, Athziri, Abigail, Kristy – Sweetest girls ever. All entered the classroom with Spanish speaking skills only. In the few months we have had together, they have acquired so much English. They are using sentences now and feeling the confidence to learn in another language. What a challenge that would be for all of us. They are so very brave and doing so well. They have increasing English vocabulary and self-esteem growing in leaps and bounds. How wonderful it will be to start school next year and be able to communicate with peers and teachers and not feel lost or neglected: to be bilingual.
Scale up Preschool Services
OUPN will continue to work with community organizations to develop resources focused on early childhood development. This includes: sustaining the pilot preschool program at James Madison and scaling it up to at least one additional school in the OUPN footprint in the 2014/15 school year, convening and support the development of an Early Childhood Coalition and applying for funds to support quality improvement.