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R-1 school board discusses Parents as Teachers program

Friday, May 11, 2012

Details about the Parents as Teachers program were provided at the April meeting of the Monett R-1 Board of Education by Elaine O'Neal, special services director.

The four goals set down by the National Center for Parents as Teachers are: increasing parent knowledge of early childhood development and parenting practices; providing early detection of developmental delays and health issues; preventing child abuse and neglect; and increasing children's school readiness and school success.

The program in Monett uses the "Born to Learn" logic model and curriculum, developed by the national center. Enrolled children receive at least one screening per year in several areas of development. Many receive personal visits by a Parents as Teachers educator.

Over the past two years, O'Neal said Parents as Teachers has changed in response to available state funding. Last year the program cut the number of families served in half. This year the number dropped another 15 percent to serve 78 children and 56 families. Approximately 80 percent of program funding comes from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

By the end of March, two program educators conducted 322 personal visited and screened 93 children under age 3. Another 261 children were screened from age 3 to pre-kindergarten entry age.

The program has provided valuable referrals to the Head Start and First Steps programs and the district's early childhood service.

Funding remains a major concern. A reduction of services creates higher costs to the district to help children catch up.

"Without continuing or possibly restoring services, we will no doubt see an increase in unprepared, struggling students in Monett schools in the future," O'Neal said.

During the present year, O'Neal said program staff have worked on increasing the frequency of preschool and kindergarten screenings in the expanded resources at the Monett Elementary School. Feedback from families has been positive. O'Neal hoped to further increase screenings to help children prepare for kindergarten. More professional development will be needed in the next two years to train staff in the new mandated curriculum.

English language learners

A report on the English Language Learners (ELL) program was provided by Daphne Hensley, the ELL coordinator, and Assistant Superintendent Bad Hanson. The program goal is providing support for students whose primary language in not English.

ELL uses a wide range of strategies, from small groups and sheltered instruction teaching to class-within-a-class, assessments modified to promote English language concepts and co-teaching. Translation and interpreter opportunities ensure parents are included.

Student progress is measured in classroom assessments, state standardized tests, entry and exit data plus feedback from teachers. Several students exited the program with skills comparable to native English-speaking peers. State test scores for ELL students show continued improvement over the past four years.

Sessions for students in grades seven to 12 have focused on college and career opportunities for the students. Parental meetings for younger students have focused on community connections and technology.

Visits by state officials have produced many positive comments, Hensley and Hanson said. Use of tools like Grammar Gallery and Rosetta Stone have been seen as a significant benefit to students.

Hensley and Hanson recommended starting a newcomer program for new non-English speaking students. Identifying essential skills needed for other curriculum pertinent to ELL students remains critical. Hensley and Hanson saw challenges in maintaining staff levels in the face of increasing enrollment. They also saw the need to increase technology opportunities in ELL classrooms.

Library/media services

The library and media services report was provided by Hanson. Making resources available in a central location extends student learning beyond the classroom, Hanson said. Each campus has a library, headed by a certified librarian or library clerk.

Libraries also serve as a hub for digital and electronic resources available for classroom use.

Hanson praised the well-trained librarians and media specialists for paying close attention to the needs of individual campuses. Circulation numbers have remained strong throughout the district. Software tracking check-outs and e-book use show what types of readers are using each facility.

The reduction in certified librarians has caused concern among the media specialists about how a modified staffing arrangement will work. Elimination of the technology department's troubleshooting "tech cadre" has prompted more requests to library staff to fix equipment or log-in failures.

The move toward providing laptops and iPads for students raises questions about library budgets. Hanson said libraries are having to buy books plus licenses for the e-book version. A funding plan for up to five years was viewed as a major need.

More funds for district

Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann reported Governor Jay Nixon released additional transportation funds due to an increase in lottery sales. The Monett R-1 District would benefit from several thousand dollars to help pay for bus service.

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