By LISA CAPOBIANCO
National studies and research have shown the long-term impact a high-quality early childhood education has on the future success of young students, such as eliminating the achievement gap. The newly expanded pre-kindergarten program of Plainville Community Schools, which starts this September, aims to do that, said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Maureen Brummett.
Brummett said planning for the expanded program began when a committee formed in the district to conduct research on early childhood education in Plainville. During their research, committee members found Plainville still had about 30 percent of incoming kindergarten students with low readiness skills.
“Their pre-reading skills weren’t there in some cases, their pre-writing skills weren’t there, and we felt that was creating a huge gap,” said Brummett. “Although our kindergarten program was very successful, there are still kids at the end of the school year in kindergarten who are behind. A high quality preschool can definitely narrow that gap even further.”
Brummett said the district plans to keep a close eye on that 30 percent gap at the end of kindergarten each year. One body of research the committee reviewed was the HighScope Perry Preschool Study, a landmark, long-term study that examined the outcomes of a high-quality early childhood education on low-income children from the time they were three or four years old until age 40. The study, conducted over a period of four decades, found that adults at age 40 who experienced a preschool program at a young age commit fewer crimes, have higher earnings and more success in school and the workplace, stated an online press release of HighScope Educational Research Foundation The study also noted a return of over $16 to society for every tax dollar invested in the early childcare education program, reported the foundation in the release.
Brummett said the study also defined a “high-quality” preschool education program as one with certified teachers and solid language interactions between teachers and students.
“By providing a very high quality program, we hope to really prevent the achievement gap in Plainville,” said Brummett.
Brummett said the district anticipates a little over 100 students enrolled in the Pre-K program. Currently, the program offered at Linden Street School is full, and some seats are still remain available at Wheeler School as well as Toffolon School. Currently, each elementary school has enrollment of at least 20 soon-to-be 4-year-olds, reported Brummett.
“We have gotten a lot of interest in it,” said Brummett. “We’re very excited about the possibility of children having highly increased readiness skills as a result of being in preschool.”
Brummett said each elementary school also offers special education Pre-K options. Throughout the year, children with special needs will continue being accepted into the program, as mandated by the state. Students in that program will be paired with “role model” students, who will serve as peer role model students for them in the classroom.
“It’s a great way to learn—they’re more apt to learn from their peers at that age than they are from a teacher,” said Brummett.
Brummett mentioned that the newly expanded Pre-K program also will help establish relationships with preschools in the area, including Penny’s Playground and Great Beginnings, among others to offer other paraprofessionals an opportunity to attend the district workshops, which will take place on Mondays.
“A lot of the [area preschool providers] try to get familiar with our curriculum so the kids are aligned to it when they enter kindergarten, so we developed a good working relationship with all of the other preschools in the area,” said Brummett.
Donna Cavallaro of the Plainville Family Resource Network said PFRM feels excited and proud to be a part of the district’s new Pre-K program for 4-year-olds. PFRN offers parent education, family support, and parent and child interactive Play and Learn groups throughout women’s pregnancy until their child enters kindergarten.
“We share the philosophy of the school district—making sure all children are successful in our schools by building a solid foundation for learning and being ready for kindergarten success,” said Cavallaro, adding that PFRN also feels strongly that home and school partnerships can ensure children’s success in school. “The earliest start possible helps children make significant gains while encouraging parents to become more confident and involved in their children’s education”
Brummett said the district was able to fund most of the early childcare education positions by reallocating. All but one of the preschool teachers has come from within the district’s teaching ranks with all proper certification, said Brummett. That group of teachers has met over the summer to create the curriculum, viewing the Common Core State Standards.
“They developed a very comprehensive curriculum for our preschool students,” said Brummett.
Plainville’s expanded preschool program also has received funding support from the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, which awarded the district a grant of $17,285 to benefit classroom materials and program-wide curriculum development. The grant comes as part of the Foundation’s ongoing early childhood initiative called “First Year’s First,” according to a news release on the foundation’s website.
“We used that to buy some start-up supplies as well as pay for the curriculum writing expenses we had,” said Brummett, adding that the Pre-K program also received funding from the School Readiness program.
For the past eight years, the foundation has made a community investment of over $1 million in helping to prepare children of the Greater New Britain area for educational success by improving their early childhood development experience, stated the online release.
Jim Williamson, president of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, said early childhood education serves as the foundation’s number one priority. During Plainville’s planning of the expanded Pre-K program, Joeline Wruck, director of program for CFGNB, served on the district committee that investigated early childhood education. Williamson said the Foundation felt proud to be a part of that design committee, and learned more about Plainville as a community, adding that he hopes to track the long-term effect of the program on the children.
“The earlier we get children and their families prepared for that academic experience, the better,” said Williamson, adding that the expanded Pre-K program was greatly needed for those families struggling in the community.
Orientation workshops for families and their enrolled children will take place Sept. 3 at each elementary school. The first day of the Pre-K program in the district will begin Thursday, Sept. 4. The program will consist of two half-day sessions from Tuesday through Friday. Morning sessions will take place from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and afternoon sessions will take place from 12:15 to 2:45 p.m.
The Plainville school district has provided bus transportation to and from the students’ homes and/or childcare provider. Applications are still currently being accepted for any Plainville students who will turn 4-years-old by Jan. 1, 2015. The program is tuition free. To sign up, call the preschool office of Linden Street School at (860) 793-3270.
For more information regarding the current programming of the Plainville Family Resource Network, call (860) 793-6304.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO