by Will Sentell
Capitol news bureau
July 05, 2012
Some students attending pre-kindegarten classes in private and parochial schools scored better than the national average, according to a report issued Thursday.
The study was done by the Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
It focused on 1,312 students statewide who took part during the 2010-11 school year in the Nonpublic Schools Early Childhood Development program, which is one of more than half a dozen such programs in Louisiana.
The 4-year-olds were given a test before and after they finished the program to check for improvements in print, math and language.
The results show that:
- Student scores rose from the 14th percentile to the 70th percentile in print, which means they scored as well as or higher than 70 percent of students in a national comparison group.
- Student scores rose from the 14th percentile before the class in language to the 59th percentile at the end of the class.
- Students improved from the 9th percentile in math pre-class to the 64th percentile afterward.
The print test includes holding a book, turning pages, telling print from pictures and letters from numerals, writing a first name, and drawing, according to Tamika Carmouche, project director.
The study applies to at-risk students whose families meet income requirements to take part in the classes.
The program has been in operation since 2001 through a federal grant and includes students at Redemptorist Elementary School in Baton Rouge.
The classes, like other pre-kindergarten programs, are designed to prepare youngsters for school.
Without such instruction, many students — especially those from poor families — start school well behind their peers and never catch up, according to experts.
The Legislature earlier this year approved a bill to revamp Louisiana’s pre-kindergarten classes amid criticism that it is an expensive, confusing array of programs with uneven quality.
The new law, among other things, will require the state’s top school board to spell out what students need to know when they enter kindergarten.
Gov. Bobby Jindal, who made the change part of his education overhaul package, has said that only 52 percent of students enter kindergarten ready to learn.
The number of 4-year-olds in Louisiana is about 65,000.
About 45,000 are entered in pre-kindergarten classes, mostly from low-income families.