Private ECE providers and other community members are reaching out with school officials to make sure parents know the standards children should attain before school entry and follow a programme at home to help children's attainment of the standards.
Richland, July 2012 - District and school officials are teaming up with private childcare providers and other community members to reach out to parents of preschool-age children and help those parents prepare their students before they enter a classroom.
The programme called the All Children Exceeding Standards, or ACES, is the key to drop-out prevention, Assistant Superintendent Erich Bolz says.
Richland schools have among the highest rates of students meeting education standards in the state, but Bolz said teachers see a lot of kindergartners who don't have the basic skills needed to succeed.
About 42 percent of the district's kindergartners in the 2011-12 school year entered unprepared, district officials said. That means they didn't fully know their numbers and letters but also didn't know how to listen when spoken to or follow directions.
After the programme was introduced, Julie Dockter said the changes she saw in her preschoolers during the past school year were amazing.
Students know their numbers and letters now. And though they appear to spend much of their time playing in their classroom at Jason Lee Elementary School, that play – co-operative, focused and orderly -- is different from how they started the school year and key to them succeeding in kindergarten in the fall.
"It's learning how to learn," she said.
Despite new preschool programmes at several elementary schools in recent years, hundreds of Richland's kindergartners still don't have those skills when they show up for their first day of school, officials say.
That puts them behind their peers who attended preschool and makes educating them more expensive because they need more help in reading and writing. Those students still may never catch up and are at greater risk of dropping out in high school.
The problem often is seen in students who don't attend preschool before kindergarten, which can be for a variety of reasons. Government-funded programmes serving low-income families have limited capacity. Private preschools can have waiting lists or be too expensive for some families. Just knowing the options for preschool can be a challenge, teachers said.
The home-based ACES education includes learning basic academic subjects but also the social behaviours necessary for students to be successful in school. That could include preschoolers being given a responsibility at home to teach focus and work ethic, such as putting away their toys or helping clear the dinner table.
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