LAFAYETTE — Alice Boucher Elementary and J.W. Faulk Elementary have each launched developmental kindergarten classes to help better prepare young students for school.
Faulk and Boucher parents whose children scored low on a developmental skills checklist that gauges school readiness were given the option of enrolling their children in the classes, said Christine Duay, district early childhood supervisor.
The classes are designed to help students catch up academically with their peers and move up to the first grade if the student makes adequate progress, Duay said.
“It’s all about ensuring that a child succeeds, especially at a young age,” Duay said. “We hate for their school experience to start off with a struggle.”
Only about 50 percent of Lafayette Parish kindergarteners were ready for school based on the most recent data available from the 2009-10 academic year.
Superintendent Pat Cooper incorporated the developmental classes into his “100 Percent In, 100 Percent Out” district turnaround plan and said the program was successful in other districts he’s led, such as in McComb, Miss.
“These students were coming to school so far behind that there was no catching up for them. They would end up in special ed,” Cooper said of his past experience in McComb. “With this one simple move, we were able to save in McComb about 28 or 29 percent of the kids who would have dropped out.”
The classes were capped at 12 students to ensure more individualized instruction, Duay said.
Eight students are enrolled in the developmental kindergarten class at J.W. Faulk Elementary.
“We’re going to see these kids in the first grade,” said Katrina Riley, Faulk Elementary principal. “I’m not anticipating these students being held back for any reason.”
The smaller class size provides more time for teachers and teacher’s assistants to spend with struggling students, she said.
“Each student can get a lot of teacher attention,” Riley said.
That added support boosts children’s confidence in mastering the skills they’ll need to progress in school, said Laniakia Johnson, Boucher’s principal.
“You have two people who are cheering for you all day along the way,” Johnson said.
At Boucher, the parents of the 10 students identified as needing extra help agreed to enroll their children in the developmental program, Johnson said.
“Every one we asked, they took it because they wanted that help for their kids. Most knew the academic concerns of their kids, so they were very open to the class,” Johnson said.
The young students are already showing growth, Johnson said. Some students arrived at school unable to write their names or identify letters in their names and have quickly learned their letters, she said.
Johnson said she expects to continue to see the effect of the developmental program reflected in improved student achievement at the school.
Students in the classes are assessed throughout the year to chart their progress, Duay said.
She said students will be assessed again at the end of the year to determine their placement in first grade or kindergarten for the next academic year.
There aren’t any plans for an expansion of the program.
“Our hope is to close the gap so we find that there’s no longer a need for it,” Duay said.
This school year, the district began collecting information for the first time from incoming students about whether they received child care services, and if they did, the district asked for the provider’s name.
The data will be used to help ensure all students in the parish receive some sort of educational services prior to enrolling in school.
Cooper has proposed an early childhood education coalition to help devise strategies to strengthen school preparedness in the parish.
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