District: Efforts to help preschoolers working

Middletown’s Summer Bridge Program helps kindergartners start school prepared.

A program that reaches out to pre-schoolers is improving students’ kindergarten readiness, according to local education officials.

For the second year, Butler County Educational Service Center has assisted with Middletown’s Summer Bridge Program.

Four Middletown teachers and one Lakota Local Schools teacher — in partnership with the BCESC — have logged more than 700 visits to the homes of Middletown pre-schoolers to conduct the Ohio Department of Education’s Kindergarten Readiness Assessment — Literacy (KRA-L). The KRA-L helps teachers identify early reading skills. The state requires the test of all children entering kindergarten in public schools.

Middletown Schools began the program in 2007 after a “Success By 6” study by the United Way of Greater Cincinnati showed more Middletown students scoring in the lowest level for the third consecutive year.

“That’s part of why we realize that we’ve got to do more as a school district to raise that bar prior to kindergarten,” Middletown Superintendent Greg Rasmussen said. “When our students come to us, we need them as prepared as they can be.”

The KRA-L data divides student scores into three categories:

Band 1 (Scores 0-13): Assess broadly for intense instruction

Band 2 (Scores (14-23): Assess for targeted instruction

Band 3 (Scores 24-29): Assess for enriched instruction

Each of the bands guides decisions about instruction, according to the ODE website.

Despite a slight drop in 2008 when 41.25% of children entering the district scored in Band 1, the majority of Middletown students jumped into the medium band in both 2009 (41.56) and 2010 (42.23).

“The home visitors focus on the children and their parents during the seven, one-hour visits,” said Carrie Corder of BCESC’s Early Childhood Programs. “We know that by providing early literacy support and materials to the parents and guardians in the life of the young child is paramount for a child to be ready for kindergarten.”

Melissa Roberts said her daughter Ciara, now a kindergartner, benefited from the program.

“They just finished the first quarter of the school year and her teacher told me that Ciara is ready to start reading,” Roberts said. “She’s been very well prepared. She recognizes all the letters in the alphabet, knows her numbers. She’s already counting and reading words. He couldn’t believe that she was already ready to read. And Ciara has perfect attendance, because she loves going to school.”

Schools officials said parents also play an important role in making the program a success.

“They did home visits, they worked with parents on what they could do for kids, and they gave parents strategies on how they can help kids be prepared for school, and things you work with — the rhyming — just the activities you can do,” Rasmussen said. “So it not only helped working with the kids, but it also helped the parents. After the instructor leaves, the parents are able to help their kids.”

No general funds from the district are spent on the Summer Bridge Program, according to Rasmussen.

“We get Early Childhood Unit funding from the state. That goes to Butler County to help manage the program,” he said.

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