Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 2 Profiles of Promising Practices - 1995
A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
Florence School District One
Florence County, South Carolina
- Continuous professional development
- Integrated skills curriculum
Florence School District One began its extended-day Title I kindergarten program in 1973. The program serves 240 students a year in four elementary schools with Title I schoolwide projects; students whose scores on a skills checklist indicate a need for additional work on reading receive first priority in enrollment. The program focuses on improving cognitive, motor, and social skills needed to succeed in first grade, with a particular emphasis on early literacy development, including listening, speaking, and language skills. Students receive more than 630 extra hours of instruction a year and are evaluated with district-created assessment tools.
The school district serves 15,000 students in rural and urban communities. Approximately 75 percent of the students in Title I are African American, 24 percent are Anglo, and fewer than 1 percent are Hispanic. Fewer than 1 percent have limited English proficiency. Approximately 88 percent of the students in the extended-day program qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
Major Program Features
- Planning and design. The program is partially coordinated with a state goal of increasing school readiness; it was developed as a preventive measure to enable students to develop the skills needed for success in first grade, decreasing the potential need for further remedial services in their elementary years. The extended-day kindergarten focuses on whole language and incorporates state curriculum objectives. Kindergarten teachers coordinate with first grade Reading Recovery teachers to help guide curriculum and instruction at the kindergarten level.
When the extended-day schools became schoolwide projects, Title I kindergarten teachers had the option of increasing the extended-day class size but opted to maintain the student-teacher ratio of 20:1, which they view as the maximum number of students they can serve effectively in a group.
- Academic focus. All kindergarten students in the district's 12 elementary schools receive instruction from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Extended-day Title I kindergarten students attend until 2:30 p.m., five days a week, in four Title I schools, receiving roughly 630 hours of additional schooltime each year per child.3 Regular classroom teachers instruct the Title I students in the afternoon. This arrangement permits a high degree of coordination and continuity between the morning and afternoon programs. Teachers are familiar with the needs of the extended-day students, which allows them to better serve each child's needs. The program emphasizes early literacy development; language skills; and cognitive, motor, and social skills needed to succeed in first grade.
Students in the extended-day program come from various language backgrounds, and some lack the standard language skills expected by schools. The program focuses on reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills through a whole-language approach. Teachers use "big books"--oversized volumes designed for group use and linked to multiple activities--to cultivate early literacy. Students work on the same book for a week, making predictions, reading, participating in literature-based activities, practicing vocabulary and other skills related to the literature, and finally reading the book with the teacher.
The curriculum includes thematic, integrated skill units. To blend language development, reading, writing, and social skills, students in one program created and illustrated books based on interviews with each other. The teacher wrote up the student narratives and the class bound the product into a book. The class then interviewed school administrators, faculty, and staff to create a second book that is displayed in the school library.
- Organizational management/structure. A coordinator supervises the kindergarten programs in all 12 elementary schools. A district advisory committee composed of regular classroom and Title I teachers and aides discusses issues related to kindergarten. Committee members then return to their schools to disseminate information and make decisions related to the program.
- Parent and community involvement. Two parent coordinators, funded by Title I, involve parents in the extended-day program. The district has a parent center where parents may take parent education classes, check out books and games to use with children at home, and pick up written materials on parenting. Each classroom has a library of books, games, and computers that parents may borrow. The parent coordinators teach parent education classes at the parent center and at schools. Classes frequently focus on activities parents can do at home with their children, such as Family Math for Preschoolers (by Merrill Publishing), and on effective parenting skills. The coordinators also use Bowdoin 1 and 2, a parenting skills program.
The coordinators have not been able to involve all parents, especially those who have transportation problems or work schedules that conflict with school meetings and programs. Coordinators often help set up car pools and even pick up parents to help increase involvement. The program has found that offering meals and door prizes donated by local businesses, or involving children in the programs, can entice more parents to participate.
- Professional environment. Ongoing professional development with follow-up plays a major role in the success of Florence's extended-day program. Teachers attend workshops in the district and across the state to learn about using thematic units, new assessment techniques, and whole language and literacy techniques such as shared reading. Teachers recently learned skills for teaching "crack babies" and victims of fetal alcohol syndrome, a growing population in the program. First-grade teachers in the district provide workshops on Reading Recovery. Most professional development opportunities provide several sessions per topic.
- Funding. Title I funds the extended-day kindergarten through each school's schoolwide project budget. The overall district per-pupil expenditure in 1992-93 was approximately $2,717. In 1993-94, the district budgeted a minimum of $999 per identified Title I student in addition to the basic per-pupil expenditure. The extended-day kindergarten costs about $1.58 per student hour for each child served.4
- Assessment and accountability. The extended-day program originally evaluated Title I students using the Metropolitan Achievement Test (MAT), the California Test of Basic Skills (CTBS), and the Basic Skills Assessment Program (a state-developed, norm-referenced test). The program now uses a locally developed skills card that sets the same objectives for all kindergartners, regardless of their standing as Title I or non-Title I students. The program uses a Developing Skills Checklist (DSC) developed by CTB-McGraw Hill to screen and identify Title I students at the beginning of the year. The state has mandated that the screening tool cannot also be used as the evaluation tool for students, but extended-day teachers keep the profile the test provides for each student and use it as an individualized plan to guide instruction.
Teachers use the skills card to evaluate all kindergartners at the end of the first semester and again at the end of the year. Evaluated skills are based on the state's 18 objectives for kindergarten and include social skills, knowledge of personal information, gross and fine motor skills, expressive language, visual discrimination, and other skills at advanced and basic levels. Each child is compared only to himself, not to peers. Teachers use observation and portfolios to measure the skills card components. The district identified specific tasks, many of them hands-on, that children must perform to show mastery. For example, a child must be able to lace a shoe in a criss-cross pattern to show fine motor skills. Teachers also include writing samples and journals in the portfolios.
The kindergarten advisory committee is considering revising the skills checklist. The group believes that the assessment does not accurately reflect the way teachers are teaching. The group plans to create a developmentally appropriate assessment that will show a continuum of growth from age 3, when students begin to receive early intervention services, to age 5, when students begin kindergarten.
In the program's early stages, some students were bused to a different school for the afternoon program because it was not offered in all Title I schools. The program now operates at the four sites where Title I students are heavily concentrated, and students remain at the same school all day. This centralization allows children to work with the same teachers and aides throughout the school day, providing them with a greater sense of security and allowing them to concentrate their energy on learning.
Evidence of Success
In 1992-93, 80 percent of the extended-day Title I students mastered the advanced and basic skills on the locally developed skills card. In 1991-92, the last year for which the Developing Skills Checklist (DSC) was used for both pre- and post-program evaluation, extended-day kindergarten students in the district showed an average point gain of almost 47 percent after participating in the program; average gains of individual schools ranged from about 35 percent to 62 percent.
3 This includes lunch, recess, and nap time, much of which teachers consider instructional time. For example, teachers instruct students in social skills during a family-style lunch period. If this time is deducted, students receive about 450 extra hours a year.
4 This amount is based on 630 hours of extra instruction per year, and includes lunch, recess, and nap time. Excluding these activities, the cost is $2.22 per student per hour, based on 450 hours of service.
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