MARSHALL — A grant from the Texas Education Agency awarded to Marshall ISD will assist the district in providing a solid base for pre-kindergarten students at Washington Early Childhood Center.
The funding will provide MISD with $75,000 per year for the next two years which the district will use to focus on new curriculum initiatives targeted to students in pre-kindergarten. Also included in the plan are an increased focus on family engagement as well as professional development opportunities for WECC teachers.
“I always believe that you should begin with the end in mind,” said Dana Harper, MISD’s new Interventions Coordinator and who will spend a great deal of her time working with and providing support to staff and students at WECC this year. “The end in mind for WECC is for students to be ready for kindergarten and ultimately begin their path to being prepared for college. The more ready the students are for kindergarten, the better their chances of getting into programs we offer in MISD such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and AP (Advanced Placement).”
The curriculum piece provided through the grant is called “Learning By Doing,” a program that had previously been used by new MISD Superintendent Dr. Jerry Gibson in his previous tenure at Coldspring ISD. The program, developed by Dr. Michele Burke of Aldine ISD, incorporates the philosophy of Montessori, which is a “child-centered approach to education designed to allow movement and collaboration to promote concentration and a sense of order.”
“We will use the ‘Learning By Doing’ curriculum as a supplement to our Creative Curriculum we’ve been using at WECC for the last three years,” Harper said. “We will be using the language piece of ‘Learning By Doing’ this year, which is truly a reading readiness program.”
Providing students with a firm foundation and start to reading success is a primary goal of the curriculum. In his three years as Superintendent at Coldspring ISD, Dr. Gibson found that the majority of students who had been through the ‘Learning By Doing’ curriculum entered kindergarten ahead of where they needed to be in terms of reading and comprehension.
“This pre-kindergarten program is without exception the best thing that I have seen in education in the past three years,” said Dr. Gibson, who became MISD Superintendent this past June. “Pre-K lays the foundation for what students learn in their formative years. The great the foundation, the greater the absorption in a student’s experience in elementary school.”
Gibson said that that previously in Coldpsring, fourth-grade students would visit pre-kindergarten classrooms and read to the students. After implementation of the “Learning By Doing” curriculum, however, pre-k students then would visit fourth-graders and read to them.
“What I have learned and observed in this curriculum is on the cutting edge in education,” he said. “It is hard to put into words the joy that I have when I go into a classroom of four- and five-year old students and they ask me to sit down and they read to me. You can see the students’ joy in learning to read.
“I cannot wait to see the students of MISD grow as we prepare them for kindergarten.”
Funds from the Pre-K grant will also be used for training all of the staff at WECC and also to provide classroom materials that both students and teachers will use.
The Family Engagement piece of the program allows MISD to host monthly parent meetings based upon parent interests and needs.
“In addition, we will have a parent center with technology,” Harper said. “This will allow our parents to have a place to search for jobs, develop resumes, and check student progress. Basically, we want to eliminate barriers for our parents.”
In addition, the parent center will house a library of parenting literature, snacks and a suggestion box. The data collected will help make WECC a better place and the hope is to meet parent needs as they arise, Harper said.
MISD has also received an additional grant from TEA to provide CLI Engage, a common assessment for WECC which will be administered three times a year and will be used to drive instruction. The grant for 2016-2017 will allow further training for teachers, and will help them refine their skill set by using CLI Engage.
CLI Engage is a comprehensive professional development and progress monitoring platform for pre-k teachers in Texas public schools, charter schools, and Head Start programs. CLI Engage offers free access to professional development and child progress monitoring tools and resources originally developed for use with preschool teachers participating in the Texas School Ready Project (TSR).