- Associated Press - Saturday, March 7, 2015

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - Three northern Indiana preschools and an elementary school will participate in a pilot program that will monitor children through third grade to help improve early learning.

The program will track students entering kindergarten this fall and send scores from a variety of screening tests back to their preschools to help them improve educational programs, The Journal Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/18JHq8n ).

“All these child care programs would love to know how these children are doing in school and what could they do to improve outcomes for the children in the future,” said Jeanne Zehr, director of community impact at United Way of Allen County, which is working with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership on the data-sharing agreement.

Zehr said such data sharing is “the brass ring” for education professionals looking to improve on their practices.

The assessment for incoming kindergartners would typically cover recognition of letters and their sounds, numbers, shapes and colors. It also could include reading some simple words like “cat,” said Rachel Remenschneider, a Southwick instructional K-2 coach and English learner instructor. Children might also be asked to draw a person and write their name.

There are also management skills for incoming kindergartners that are important: learning how to stand in line, how to sit on a carpet and how to eat in a cafeteria setting, Remenschneider said.

Proponents of the project say many schools already use assessments like DIBELS, or Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, but note that the data are not returned to the preschool in a regular fashion. With data tracking and a shared information system in place, it will be the first step toward a more standardized assessment that lets preschool administrators and teachers see where their programs’ strengths and weaknesses lie, educators said.

“We can truly prepare them for the next educational stage,” said Greta McKinney, director at the MLK Montessori school, which sends about 15 students to Southwick each fall. “When you build those relationships and those bridges, that will make those children education-strong.”

Experts say quality preschool education has been linked to higher standardized test scores throughout elementary school, a reduced chance of detention in the juvenile system and less likelihood of incarceration.


Information from: The Journal Gazette, https://www.journalgazette.net

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