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Chambersburg's kindergarten program has impressive results

August 13, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - During its first year, an extended day kindergarten program targeting some of the Chambersburg Area School District's most at-risk children produced impressive results, and could be expanded to more schools in the next two years.

The program, which started in October with 30 students from around the district attending classes at Stevens and Scotland elementary schools, provided them with about twice the instructional time of the normal 2 1/2-hour kindergarten program, Regional Principal Paul Sick told the school board Wednesday.

Of the approximately 600 kindergarten students in the district last year, about 38 percent scored at or above the basic literacy skills for their age, and another 43 percent fell somewhat short of that, Sick said. The remaining 19 percent, about 130 children, were found to be in need of intensive help because of their limited social and academic development, and it was from this group the students were selected, Sick said.

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By the end of the year, the percentage of students in extended day kindergarten achieving at or above the benchmarks set by the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Literacy Skills (DIBELS) went from 0 percent to 68 percent. Among similar students in the half-day program, 40 percent achieved those benchmarks.

The percentage of students in extended day kindergarten in need of intensive help fell from 84 percent at the beginning of the year to 12 percent by June, Sick said. In the half-day program, the percentage fell from 84 percent to 36 percent, he said.

Sick said extended day program students gained about 23 months of growth in basic skills compared to less than 17 months gain for similar students in the half-day program.

"I'm so excited about how the year turned out," said Anne Vincenti, who taught the class at Scotland. The longer hours, smaller class size and small group instruction allowed the students to learn "in a relaxed atmosphere," she said.

"We are preparing the district and the community for the full-day kindergarten program throughout the district," said Catherine Dusman, assistant superintendent for Elementary Services.

Two years from now, the program could be expanded to include Buchanan, Gordy, King Street, Grandview and Sharpe elementary schools, Dusman said. Those schools and Stevens are Title I schools, Dusman said, meaning they qualify for federal assistance for economically and educationally disadvantaged students.

"The earlier we can educate these children on the building blocks of reading and math ... the more successful they will be for the rest of their lives," Dusman said. Full-day kindergarten, she said, "will be the most powerful tool we, as educators and a community, can put in place for our children."

"All-day kindergarten needs to be a priority in this district ... all the research shows us that's the way to go," Superintendent Joseph Padasak said Thursday.

Padasak said all-day kindergarten will require additional classrooms to be added. Most of the district's approximately 600 kindergarten students at 17 schools attend either morning or afternoon classes.

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