Category: Community Published on Thursday, 08 August 2013 17:42 Written by C.L. Price
DPS expansion of Universal Pre-K programs expected to buoy student success
The most plugged-in generation of youth ever to arrive at schools this fall may also be among the most likely to tune out of education early, according to educational experts who fear that Pre-K kids will find it easier than ever to disconnect in traditional school environments this fall.
Undaunted by such challenges to student success, Detroit Public Schools is transforming its entire system to make sure its students start earlier and stay engaged in education through graduation.
The district’s announcement of a broad strategy to vastly increase preschool offerings for eligible students, expand art and music enrichment offerings and create new parenting programs to increase parent engagement, is anticipated to elevate the districts’ competitive position among less progressive districts, according to industry insiders.
A new study, published in Pediatrics, found that such early , comprehensive support of both young students and their parent(s) is a predictor of student success, better achievement test scores and overall school performance.
“DPS’ Universal Pre-K Plan is designed to invest early in our children through expanded preschool programs for all eligible four-year-olds because numerous published studies support it,” said Emergency Manager Jack Martin.
An Early Start
Martin is confident that DPS’ planned expansion of its Universal Pre-K Program, which will support parents and pre-kindergarten students in 25 new early learning classrooms at 14 sites geographically spread across the city, including 12 classrooms in five new DPS Early Learning Neighborhood Centers, will elevate district performance.
In total, DPS will operate 215 Pre-K classrooms at 70 schools with a capacity for 3,530 young learners, according to a spokesperson from the district.
With children from low-income families ten times as likely as children from middle-class families to drop out of high school and a 65 percent high school graduation rate, programs like these are critical.
“Quality Pre-K programs help children learn to read before 3rd grade, which is a critical achievement. We know that students who can read by 3rd grade will stay engaged in school and graduate at much higher rates,” said Karen Ridgeway, Superintendent of Academics for Detroit Public Schools.
“Our plan also includes moving an additional 21 Pre-K classrooms into DPS schools to create a more seamless transition to DPS kindergarten. The programs were operated by DPS within district-authorized charter schools, Educational Achievement Authority schools, or buildings that are closing during the 2012-2013 school year,” she stated.
PLAYING FOR KEEPS
Student retention is a critical issue for most school districts, particularly DPS, which loses about a third of Pre-K students before first grade and half of preschool students by third grade.
That’s why DPS officials also unveiled plans to aggressively retain children from the district’s Pre-K programs in its general academic programs, which will aid the district in enrollment stabilization and set the foundation for students to be better-prepared to enter kindergarten.
CLOSE & COMFORTABLE
Although the majority of parents and children are very excited about attending school, even the most enthusiastic families report bumps in the road.
That’s why in addition to its 46 new preschool classrooms, DPS’ retention plan includes an innovative new monthly Pre-K-to-Kindergarten transition program during the school year aimed at making the big transition simpler for vulnerable students.
Individualized Pre-K-to-Kindergarten counseling will also be available to families, in addition to DPS’ first-ever pre-kindergarten enrichment programs which debuted this summer.
The programs aimed at making learning fun, included weekly educational/experiential field trips and other programs during the district’s Summer Academy.
DPS administrators are so confident in the new programs’ success, that they plan to measure program success via one-on-one satisfaction surveys with parents.
These new moves support the district’s strategy to provide more Pre-K programs and to find innovative methods of attracting new students, according to Ridgeway.
The district is also creating five new Early Learning Neighborhood Centers at Beard, Emerson, Fleming, Golightly Education Center and Palmer Park Preparatory Academy.
Children draw from their experiences. And when those experiences include arts and music, they perform better on standardized achievement tests, watch fewer hours of TV, participate in more community service and report less boredom in school, according to researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles,.
Findings like this are a part of the rationale behind plans to add new music and art enrichment programs throughout DPS beginning in the Fall of 2013, according to officials who note that the district’s strategic plan calls for an art or music enrichment program for every elementary school student, partnering with individuals and agencies with a proven track record in Detroit.
NO PARENT LEFT BEHIND
The district unveiled plans for a new Parent University and Parenting Home Visits as a part of its extensive parent engagement initiatives.
The Parent University will feature a professional development curriculum tailored for parents, internships, and the formation of a collaborative of support organizations for parents of students from Head Start to college.
The district also announced a Home-School Visitation program to strengthen the relationship between teachers and parents. Modeled after programs in Boston and California, the Parent University and Parenting Home Visits are anticipated to yield improved academic and behavioral outcomes.
Additional initiatives from the community-driven Detroit Public Schools strategic plan, which will be ready for this new school year starting September 3, include; Career Academies offering diploma, certification, associate degree and apprenticeships upon completion; Community Schools models; Safety enhancements; Customer Service programs and training; and new Attendance and Code of Conduct policies.
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