By Peter Blank
Lorrel Esterbrook, Mentor Coach for Family Engagement at Clayton Early Learning, has years of experience working with various center and family based programs. In addition to overseeing the Play and Learn programs here at Clayton, she has a wealth of knowledge about the HIPPY program (read more about HIPPY here). She recently transformed this wealth of knowledge into a published story book rooted in the HIPPY curriculum, "What I Saw". I asked Lorrel about her experience in family engagement, her wonderful book, and life as a published author. The following is an edited version of our conversation.
PB: What drew you to a career in ECE and specifically home and family based instruction?
LE: While I was in college I started working for a community center in Denver’s Five Points/Curtis Park neighborhoods teaching art classes and job readiness skills to adolescents that were either already gang affiliated or at risk for drugs, violence, and gang affiliation. While doing that work the importance of family engagement became even more apparent to me. I also saw the critical role that programs like Head Start played in fostering parent engagement. Eventually I started working with a Head Start program and then I started working with a school based early childhood and family engagement program. That’s when I was introduced to home visiting. I was fortunate to work with a small but passionate team that was conducting home visits in three different languages to immigrant and refugee families from around the world. The families we served taught me about a wide range of wonderful family and parenting practices. Parents would sometimes ask me for “the right way” to parent their child. That broke my heart because it implied that they were in some way doing something wrong. My goal became honoring their cultural style of parenting while giving them a buffet of options they could try out as they learned the culture of their new home.
PB: When did you first get involved with the HIPPY program?
LE: As happens in our field, the grant for the ECE and parent engagement program I was working with ended. I stumbled upon a position as a HIPPY Coordinator for a county Head Start program. I knew HIPPY by name, but little else. Within a few days of accepting the position I was in Little Rock, Arkansas attending the HIPPY pre-service training for coordinators. By the end of the week I was hooked! HIPPY is rooted in some of my core beliefs. All parents want good things for their children. HIPPY strives to honor the parenting tools that families have already, and introduces them to new strategies to help their child learn and grow.
PB: You were a HIPPY coordinator for ten years and work as a National Trainer for HIPPY USA. How did you become involved with the program as an author?
LE: A few years ago the HIPPY curriculum underwent a major rewrite. That revision was led by a team from Clayton Early Learning including Michelle Mackin-Brown and Jan Hommes. My decision to apply for a position at Clayton was influenced in part by the positive experience I had working with this curriculum development team. Several HIPPY sites were selected to pilot the new curriculum and the site I was working with was one of those. In that capacity I had an opportunity to provide feedback to the curriculum revision team and helped rewrite the coordinators manual for the model. I attended a curriculum meeting at the HIPPY USA 2014 Leadership Conference in Washington DC. During that meeting there was discussion about updating the story books for the curriculum. We were asked for our thoughts on what was needed for a new story and I had a lot to say and a lot of ideas. A few weeks later I got a call from HIPPY USA asking me if I would like to try putting all of my ideas into book form. I was thrilled with the idea and jumped right on the opportunity.
PB: What inspired you to write “What I Saw”?
LE: “What I Saw” is about a kindergartner named Tasha who is nervous about talking in front of the class during show and tell. The teacher Mrs. Hart has asked all of the children to bring pictures of animals they have seen. Mrs. Hart provides encouragement and opportunities for the children to expand their language and learning around animals like birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Mrs. Hart accepts each child where they are at, while giving them opportunities for growth. This leads Tasha to feel more comfortable talking.
I’m a huge animal and nature lover. When I was a kid I loved books about animals. I felt this was an opportunity to introduce some big vocabulary and science to preschool age children. I tried to pick a wide range of animals so that every child reading the book could identify with seeing at least one of those animals. But I also wanted to provide opportunities for children to be introduced to animals they might not have seen. I specifically chose the North American Wood Duck as one of the birds in the story. This type of duck was hugely important to me as a child and was considered endangered during the 1970’s. My family worked with and supported these ducks on our property as part of a species conservation plan. Because of the program my family participated in you can now see North American Wood Ducks living all over the country including Denver’s City Park.
All of the children in “What I Saw” are named and modeled after children in my own family and family friends. The teacher in the story is one of my HIPPY Mentors, Gayle Hart. Illustrator Debbie Clark, did an amazing job of portraying all of the characters. I wanted all of the children in my life to be able to look at the book and see a child that they could identify with on some level. Maybe they identify with a child because of the way they look, or they might identify with a personality trait, or the structure of the family.
PB: Why is it important that children have access to literature like this?
LE: There are three main points that stick out for me: First of all “What I Saw” is designed to prompt parents to talk with their children about the book. To ask children open ended questions. It models questions that parents can ask, it shows possible responses and how parents can build on their child’s response. Secondly it gives children an opportunity to learn some new big vocabulary in a very age appropriate manner. I love hearing children tell their parents “That’s a dog, it’s a mammal because it has fur”. Lastly, but maybe most important, I think it’s important for children to see themselves in the stories they read. As I said before, all of the children and the teacher are modeled on real people, people I love, respect and care about. Some of those individuals had expressed that they didn’t see people like them in children’s stories. I wanted to change that. I wanted those individuals to know how important they are and their unique qualities are to me.
PB: What advice would you give other education professionals who are interested in becoming authors?
LE: Have someone who can give you good honest and constructive feedback. Writing taps into your emotions. I put a lot of heart and soul into this story. Getting constructive criticism could have been a painful experience, but it wasn’t because the person in charge of filtering the feedback back to me took the time to honor and respect my feelings on my work. For every hour you spend writing you will probably spend ten hours thinking, researching, and problem solving. I think that might have been the biggest surprise to me. Children need to hear stories told from many perspectives and many voices. Add your unique voice and perspective to the world of children’s literature. Write about who and what you love.
PB: You are attending the upcoming HIPPY Leadership Conference next month. What is the focus of this conference? What is your role at this conference?
LE: The conference is held every other year and is an opportunity for HIPPY coordinators and staff to meet, engage in professional development and learn about new developments with the HIPPY model and curriculum. This year there will be a book signing event where some of the HIPPY authors and illustrators will be signing books for the conference participants. I will be co-presenting a workshop called “HIPPY Hacks”. We will be presenting and crowd sourcing ideas on how to save time, money, and sanity while running a HIPPY program.
You can find more information on the upcoming HIPPY Leadership Conference by following the link.
By Peter Blank
Clayton Early Learning has been working to increase early literacy skills with the help of the innovative Ready to Read (RTR) project since 2012. As the project moves into its fourth year let’s take a closer look at the various levels and true depth and reach of RTR.
Clayton received a grant to implement the Ready to Read project, in collaboration with our partner organization Mile High Montessori Early Learning Centers (MHM), from Mile High United Way. The goal of RTR is to foster early literacy skills through interventions, focusing on oral language and vocabulary, in children birth to three. RTR encompasses two different evaluation studies, one in center based care the other in informal care, in an effort to achieve this goal across various care settings. A variety of tools and unique curricula, including Dialogic Reading and Cradling Literacy, are being used to nurture these literacy skills in participating families and children.
Center Based Study
The RTR center-based evaluation study takes place at Educare Denver at Clayton Early Learning and four MHM early learning centers across Denver. Within these centers all participating classrooms are trained in and implement Dialogic Reading. According to Shelly Anderson, Project Manager of RTR, Dialogic Reading is an interactive approach to literacy “where the child becomes the storyteller and the adult takes on the role of active listener, following the child’s lead”. By using picture books and letting the child direct the story, it focuses on developing oral language skills as well as a passion for storytelling and books. Dialogic Reading is designed for children birth to five, so even infants and toddlers can begin developing literacy skills at their young age.
In addition to Dialogic Reading, some center-based classrooms are supplemented by the Cradling Literacy curriculum. This additional intervention is an evidence based professional development curriculum for teachers. Developed by Zero to Three, it includes 12 two hour training sessions that cover various topics of literacy development such as the benefits of storytelling and working with families to foster emergent literacy skills.
Play and Learn Study
RTR isn’t just helping children in center-based programs develop early literacy skills. Five Play and Learn groups are also participating in the project. (For more information on Play and Learn, check out this blog.) Parents and caregivers at these Play and Learn sites also receive Dialogic Reading training and work on developing this practice during group sessions and at home. Additionally, some Play and Learn families receive coaching and feedback on their language interactions with children via LENA recording devices. LENA devices are like a pedometer for words, capturing language interactions including child vocalizations, adult word count, conversational terms, and the audio environment like TV and radio. Understanding just how much and what kind of language children hear day to day is integral for emergent literacy and language development.
With a multitude of approaches and evidence based tools, the Ready to Read project has been truly innovative in its approach to early literacy. It will be exciting to continue reviewing the results for the remainder of the project, which ends in the fall of 2017.
For more information on Ready to Read, contact Shelly Anderson at email@example.com
By Peter Blank
What is HIPPY?
There are many program options available to families at Clayton Early Learning. In addition to the numerous center-based options our schools offer, many families participate in various home-based programming. One of these options is the Head Start Home Based* program, which employs the HIPPY model and curriculum. The Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) is, according to their website, “an evidenced-based program that works with families in the home to support parents in their critical role as their child's first and most important teacher”The program follows a specific 30 week curriculum designed for children ages three to five. This curriculum focuses on cognitive skill development, such as math and literacy, as well as social emotional development.
HIPPY at Clayton
The HIPPY program is no stranger to Clayton Early Learning’s campus. Beginning in 1994, the model has been serving parents and children at Clayton for over 20 years. At the time of publishing, 68 children currently benefit from this innovative home-based early learning program here at Clayton. Nearly 90% of these children are identified as primary Spanish speakers. According to Michelle Mackin Brown, Team Lead of Family & Community Services at Clayton, participating families always express appreciation about the fact that the HIPPY curriculum is available bilingually in Spanish and English. Coupled with our bilingual home-based HIPPY staff, this allows the program to work seamlessly across varying demographics.
The model is adaptable not only across languages, but locations and settings as well. According to Michelle Makin Brown the activities included in the curriculum “can be done in the home, at the park, at the store and in the community throughout the week to support school readiness”. This flexible approach allows parents to work with their children wherever they may be, bringing important early learning opportunities out of the classroom and into the community.
As previously mentioned, this curriculum is broken out across 30 weeks though at Clayton our home-based HIPPY program lasts 32 weeks. Each home visitor, or Child Family Educator (CFE), working with home-based HIPPY has a limited number of families on their caseload. Such small caseloads allow the CFEs to develop meaningful relationships with both the parent and child throughout their time in the program. During the 32 weeks, families participate in weekly 90 minute home-visits with their CFE to work on new aspects of the curriculum and check in on previous weeks’ goals and activities. In addition to these weekly visits, families come together twice a month for a socialization session. These group sessions are held on Clayton’s campus and offer a classroom experience for the children as well as the parents. During this classroom routine, children are able to socialize with each other and both the parents and children are exposed to social encounters and group learning activities. Transportation is provided to and from the group socializations. Although not required, some CFEs incorporate field trips into the program, bringing certain activities to new and exciting settings like the Denver Zoo.
How is it working?
In order to measure success and progress of the HIPPY program, it undergoes an evaluation process similar to that of Clayton’s center-based options. A combination of data from child assessments and parent interviews are analyzed every year in an effort to track the program’s findings. According to the 2014-2015 Clayton Annual Evaluation Report, “Spanish-speaking HIPPY children† tended to demonstrate strong receptive language skills and made statistically significant gain over time. By the end of the year, the majority of children scored in the average range or above.” Specifically, kindergarten-bound HIPPY children assessed in Spanish left the program with above average receptive language skills.
On a more anecdotal level, when asked how the home-based HIPPY program benefits families and children, had this to say:
“Parents become familiar with educational terms, important milestones for development, how to encourage language development and how to individualize for their child. Families become more aware of their child’s interests, behaviors and learning. Families have expressed that they have received positive feedback from elementary school staff about their child’s academic and social-emotional progress.”
A truly unique combination for both parent and child, Clayton home-based HIPPY continues to reach a wide audience across the Denver community. Here’s to 20 more years of bringing important early learning opportunities to families’ doorsteps!
For more information on the HIPPY program nationwide visit: www.hippyusa.org
For more information on the HIPPY program and other home-based services at Clayton Early Learning contact Tonya Young at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the HIPPY evaluation efforts contact Diana Mangels at email@example.com.
*Note: Clayton’s Head Start (HS) Home Based program follows the HIPPY curriculum with a few additional HS programming requirements. Based on HS requirements, these include an increased number of socializations (16 in total) and two additional weeks than the HIPPY curriculum (32, instead of 30).
†The sample of English speaking children in the home-based HIPPY program was too small to permit valid statistical analysis. Therefore, data are reflective of Spanish speaking children only.
By Peter Blank
Debbie Baker, Child Family Educator and member of the I Love to Read committee, shares with our blog readers the in's and the out's of "I Love to Read" month, which starts February 1st.
By: Debbie Baker
February is “I Love to Read” month at Clayton Early Learning. Early Literacy includes such activities as reading, singing, and talking with your infant, toddler or preschool-aged child. At Clayton Early Learning, we celebrate Early Literacy in February by tracking how many books parents read to their children, inviting guest readers and Clayton staff to read aloud to children, and promoting book sharing with dialogic reading classes for parents.
Ample research demonstrates that reading aloud to young children promotes the development of language and other emergent literacy skills which in turn help children prepare for school. Reading aloud to your child from birth gives your child a true head start in school readiness. Every time you read to your child you are improving their learning advantage.
In addition to improving your child’s language and literacy development, reading aloud also impacts social and emotional development, cognitive development, and fine motor development. Babies and toddlers learn about trust and secure attachment as they share a book snuggled in a lap. They practice attending to the book and can learn about situations that are outside of their regular sphere of influence by reading about them. Fine motor development is enhanced by the child’s desire to help turn the pages as an infant or toddler.
Reading aloud to young children, particularly in an engaging manner, promotes emergent literacy and language development and supports the relationship between child and parent. In addition it can promote a love for reading which is even more important than improving specific literacy skills.
Look for our “I Love to Read to You” poster in the piazza at Educare Denver at Clayton Early Learning, and add your child’s name to the heart every time you read aloud this month. There is even a cozy reading area for you to share a book with your child as you drop off or pick up.
Join us for the kick off on February 1. There will be lots of books to share and popcorn to munch as we celebrate “I Love to Read” month at Clayton Early Learning.
If you have more questions regarding February's literacy celebration or how reading impacts child development, feel free to contact Debbie for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Among the greatest benefits for children who attend high quality early care and education programs is access to tools and resources that will support the student’s readiness for kindergarten. Though the goal of school readiness for kindergarten bound students is clear, many families may wonder how readiness is determined and what tools are used to measure student growth and development.
Based on commonly identified academic criteria, one tool used to measure a preschool student’s development is the Bracken School Readiness Assessment. As children prepare to transition from preschool to kindergarten, the assessment is used to measure the child’s knowledge in areas including
- Color identification
- Letter and number recognition
- Counting and measurement concepts
- Identification and comparison of shapes
Unlike traditional testing, The Bracken is considered a ‘receptive’ assessment, meaning that children only need to point to select answers and that the student is not expected to vocalize or articulate their response. The assessor must remain objective throughout the assessment, but is dually charged with supporting the child in maintaining focus or engagement and must also anticipate distractions, boredom and other factors unique to working with young children.
Early education professionals must complete a comprehensive training program before they are considered qualified and reliable to administer The Bracken Assessment. This training provides instruction in objectivity, strategies for observing young students and practice in accommodating unexpected factors that include behavioral and environmental challenges.
This fall, teachers and other ECE professionals throughout Colorado will participate in assessor training in order to effectively implement assessment, like The Bracken, into high quality early education programs.
Concurrently, many preschool children will be assessed by qualified educators who will use The Bracken School Readiness Assessment. Those same students will be assessed once more in the spring for the purpose of objective growth measurement over the course of the school year. Both rounds of assessment will produce data that is used to gauge the child’s comprehension so that schools and families can develop individualized instruction strategies for the student as they prepare to transition from preschool to kindergarten.
For more information about The Bracken School Readiness Assessment and other tools used to track early childhood development,
contact Kristie Denlinger of the Clayton Early Learning Research & Evaluation Team email@example.com.
Last week in Chicago, over 60 early childhood state advocates from 17 states gathered for the 2015 Policy Exchange meeting sponsored by the Ounce of Prevention Fund. This annual meeting brings together state based advocates, national organizations, state government officials, researchers, academics and programmatic leaders to discuss the current early childhood policy challenges and opportunities in their states and learn from one another. Though each state is working in a different context of government, funding, and culture, commonalities can be found across the country in early childhood priority issues.
This year’s conference focused primarily on the reauthorization of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which was passed by Congress in 2014. CCDBG is the main funding source for many states’ child care assistance programs, including Colorado’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). In order for states to receive CCDBG funding, their state officials must submit a state plan that outlines how the funds will be used, who will be involved, and how the funded programs will be evaluated. The legislation that Congress passed last year made several changes to the requirements for state plans, including:
- More of a focus on ensuring quality in child care programs and increased funding requirements for quality initiatives
- Easier public access to information about child care, especially on consumer websites
- Increased requirements for the health and safety of child care programs, including disaster preparedness plans
- Increasing access for vulnerable populations to child care, with a particular focus on children with disabilities and homeless children
- More supports for families receiving child care assistance, including a 12 month eligibility re-determination, allowing at least 3 months of assistance during a parent’s job search, and providing graduated phase out assistance to families that have increased their income
Other policy priorities that advocates from across the country discussed at the Policy Exchange included continuity of child care, mental health and social/emotional development, policy innovations in Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, funding for early childhood, marketing and communications messaging, and alignment between early childhood and the K-12 system.
The Policy Exchange also gives a chance for states to highlight their successes from the past year. Some of the policy gains for early childhood from across the states included:
- California’s legislature and governor reached a budget agreement that added 7,000 preschool slots and 6,800 child care slots in the state, totaling nearly $400 million in new investments
- Louisiana passed legislation requiring the Department of Education to find funding sources to increase early childhood care and education by $80 million
- The Education Committee in Maine requested the Maine’s Children’s Growth Council, Maine Children’s Alliance, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, and the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University to gather more detailed information on the social emotional development of children and develop appropriate policy recommendations for the legislature
- Nebraska passed legislation which will allow a family to receive transitional child care assistance if an increase in family income puts them over the limits to receive assistance
- Oklahoma’s legislature passed several bills to promote early learning and literacy for children through 3rd grade
- The Washington Legislature is considering in special session the bipartisan Early Start Act to help parents find care and learning opportunities that are tailored for their children, enhance school readiness, and support providers to provide high-quality care that is culturally and linguistically responsive to the needs of young learners and their families
To find out more about the Ounce of Prevention Fund and the annual Policy Exchange, please visit http://www.theounce.org/involved/events/policy-exchange-meeting.
For working families, having access to high quality child care is critically important to support parents as they look for jobs, advance their careers and education, and move toward financial stability. The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program provides assistance to these working families in our state so that a lack of quality child care does not prevent a family from achieving economic self-sufficiency. Funded through a mix of federal, state and local funds, as well as through some parent fees, CCCAP offers financial support for child care to families through country departments of social and human services with oversight from the Colorado Department of Human Services.
Steps in the Right Direction
During the 2014 state legislative session, several bills passed into law that enacted comprehensive reforms to CCCAP, including House Bill 14-1317 and Senate Bill 14-003. These changes aimed to improve CCCAP so that not only was it more accessible and helpful to the families that receive the assistance, but also to make CCCAP an easier program to interact with for the state department, counties, and providers that accept CCCAP recipients. Some of the major changes include:
- Reducing parent co-payments for those at 100 percent of the federal poverty level
- Broadening of activities for families to be eligible for CCCAP, including two years of postsecondary education and an extension of a job search period to 60 days
- Streamlining the eligibility and redetermination processes
- Mitigating the “cliff effect” , when families become ineligible for CCCAP due to an increase in income that does not cover the increased cost of child care, through county pilot programs
- Allowing CCCAP children to get care outside of the exact hours of a parent’s work schedule to allow for greater flexibility
- Tiered reimbursement for providers that accept CCCAP children based on quality ratings in the new state quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) Colorado Shines
- A statewide market rate study to determine the cost of care by county as well as a statewide equal access study to identify the gaps and needs for child care
To learn more about the history behind these changes, the specific reforms from HB14-1317 and SB14-003, and how to get involved with the implementation, tune in to the Buell Leaders podcast “From State Legislation to Local Action: the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program” at this link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/buellleadersradio/2015/05/13/from-state-legislation-to-local-action-the-co-child-care-assistance-program
Are you interested in supporting young children's language and literacy development, but you're not quite sure where to start? We're kicking off 'I Love to Read Month' by sharing four easy ways to transform everyday experiences and routines into opportunities for young children to enhance their vocabularies, strengthen children's early phonemic awareness and a develop a life-long love of reading.
1. Conversations with Kids
Learning how to have a conversation is a lot of work for young children. Even after little ones have developed a larger vocabulary to help them communicate their needs or ideas, children may struggle with grasping the ‘conversational rules’ that adults take for granted; like turn-taking and maintaining eye contact with the person that you’re talking to.
When parents are talking to babies, try modeling conversational rules by pausing after posing a question to the infant. Even though the baby may not respond at first, infants will begin participating in conversation with caregivers by cooing back when the adult pauses between questions or comments to the baby.
If an older toddler or preschool-aged child isn’t engaging with adult attempts to converse, environmental factors may be the issue. Try asking questions or making comments and observations when there are fewer distractions, like toys, TV or music. Not sure where to start? When the radio is turned down or turned off, car rides are a great time to capture a child’s attention, model rules of conversation and promote vocabulary development all at once!
2. Point Out Print
Whether at home, in transit, at the grocery store or the playground, there are written words everywhere that adults can point out for young children. By reading aloud the messages on street signs, store windows and billboards, adults are supporting children’s familiarity with commonly reoccurring words and early grasp of phonics.
When pointing out the words and reading them aloud, adults can emphasize letter sounds, which will encourage infants and toddlers to try making that sound while also supporting preschoolers in developing letter-sound recognition.
3. Story Time
Most adults are aware that reading to preschool-aged children is a great way to support a child’s journey to becoming an independent reader. What isn’t as widely known is that infants and toddlers stand to benefit just as much from this activity! Infants and toddlers develop vocabulary more easily when they are frequently read to, even if the youngster isn’t developmentally ready to follow the storyline. In fact, rather than reading text to infants and young toddlers, adults can use comments and questions about the pictures on each page to promote vocabulary and early phonemic development. Technically referred to as ‘Dialogic Reading,’ this strategy not only enhances the child and caregiver relationship, but produces research-proven outcomes for early learners. To read more about dialogic reading for young children, use this link to one of our previous blog posts about Dialogic Reading: http://www.claytonearlylearning.org/blog/?p=943
4. Set the Example
Think that only a professionally trained teacher can support early literacy and language development for young children? Think again! Parents and primary caregivers are the most important and influential teacher that a child will ever have. As early as infancy, children are keen observers of adult behaviors and will try to imitate the behaviors that are modeled for them by the important adults in their lives. Later, as children continue to develop cognitively and emotionally, even their personal beliefs and priorities are influenced by adult family members.
The good news is that the easiest way to help a child become an avid reader is for adults to simply show children how to enjoy reading! A child will more easily develop an interest in reading and an appreciation for books when the child observes their primary caregiver engaging in reading activities and hears the adult discussing books. Further, when adults prioritize daily reading with children, the youngster develops a value for literacy and learning, in general; a value that follows the youngest students as they become life-long learners.
Do these tips sound easy to implement or do you have additional strategies to share with parents and caregivers? We want to hear your ideas for promoting early language and literacy development as well as any challenges that you’ve encountered as a parent or teacher who is supporting language and literacy with young children. Please share your experiences below!
By Peter Blank
As you may recall, the Denver Preschool Program (DPP) made the news this past election season, as voters were presented with a ballot initiative to slightly increase the Denver Preschool tax, which has funded the program since 2006. The measure passed, with 55.28% of voters choosing to have DPP continue providing high quality preschool for Denver families through 2026.
DPP encourages families to enroll their children in preschool by providing tuition credits to parents to offset the cost of preschool. DPP also works to provide resources, such as professional development opportunities, and quality measures to participating preschool programs that serve Denver’s children.
What may not have been highlighted in the news, is Clayton Early Learning’s role in the assessment and evaluation of the Denver Preschool Program over the last six years. The Clayton Early Learning Institute (Clayton) has collaborated with Augenblick, Palaich and Associates since the 2007-2008 program year to deliver high quality evaluation of the program, specifically related to the development of children enrolled in DPP.
In the second year of DPP’s existence (2008), Clayton developed an evaluation to look at how effective the program was in a variety of areas related to the development of participating children. This evaluation was designed to look at important questions about DPP such as, but not limited to, what extent participating children progress in their language, literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional development and to what extent enrolled children are prepared for kindergarten. Having completed its seventh year of this evaluation, Clayton can now not only look at current participants in DPP, but past participants as well. Clayton is able to compare past DPP participants to other students of the same grade level, providing important longitudinal data related to school readiness and school success, and how they relate to DPP.
The Research and Evaluation Team at Clayton randomly selects 200 families enrolled in DPP to participate in the study each year. Family participation is completely voluntary. The team focuses on collecting data from two sources: child assessments and parent surveys. The team uses standardized assessments that focus on math, pre-literacy, and language skills, and are able to deliver them in both English and Spanish. The results of the evaluation are analyzed and compiled in a report that is then shared with the staff at the Denver Preschool Program. These annual reports and data have helped highlight the success of DPP over the years.
This continued partnership with the Denver Preschool Program is just another example of how Clayton Early Learning is using its vast and varied talents to help shape the important field of Early Childhood Education right here in Denver.
For more information on the Denver Preschool Program you can visit their website at http://www.dpp.org.
For more information on the Clayton Early Learning Institute’s work with the DPP evaluation you can contact Caroline Ponce at CPonce@claytonearlylearning.org or (303) 355-4411 x252.
Denver (2014, November). Denver Election Results. Retrieved from City and County of Denver: https://www.denvergov.org/electionresults
Whether this school year marks a child’s first experience in preschool or a student’s final year before graduation, families may be wondering how they can support their learner through a successful school year. Though many parents and caregivers struggle to balance the demands of home, work schedules, school events and their child’s activities, there are several ways to make the school year more manageable for everyone while providing students and teachers with the support they need to realize every student’s maximum potential this academic season.
Mark Your Calendar
Most school or district websites offer a calendar of important dates that occur throughout the school year. By marking family calendars with the dates of school holidays and closures, parent meetings, back-to-school nights, etc., adults will have more time to plan for these events so that families can avoid stressful last-minute arrangements. In addition, engaging children in the process of using a calendar to plan for the school year provides parents with an opportunity to model positive time management skills and habits. Children who observe and learn effective strategies for planning are receiving a valuable lesson in stress management and how to prioritize tasks. This habit not only promotes family well-being, but also provides students with effective personal/social skills that they will continue to use as successful adults!
Stock up on Supplies for School and Home Before you Run Out
Though it may already feel as though families are asked to purchase an exhaustive list of supplies at the beginning of each school year, children seem to run low on or lose many of the most basic supplies long before the year is through. By keeping extra pencils, pens, paper and folders at home, parents and caregivers can ensure that students have the tools that they will need to complete assignments without adults needing to run to the store every couple of months. Another perk to stocking up in the fall is that prices are often lower at the beginning of the school year when large chain stores offer special back-to-school sales. Another great place to find school supply bargains is the local dollar store. This is an economical way to keep spare supplies handy for those nights when parents hear, “I think I left my calculator at the library… and I can’t finish my homework without it!”
Share Knowledge of your Child with Teachers
No one knows a student the way that the child’s family does. Parents of younger children often recognize specific behaviors that tell caregivers when the child is tired, overwhelmed, hungry or scared. Families with older students are likely to know just when their child is bored, putting forth their best effort or maybe could use some extra help. Even though teachers want to learn as much as they can about each student’s interests and strengths, this task can be very difficult in a classroom of 20 pupils who are becoming acclimated to the classroom environment. When families share unique insights with teachers, educators are given the valuable information needed to individualize their approach to working with each student. Even families who are short on time to schedule a one-on-one with their student’s teachers can utilize this support strategy by scheduling a phone conference or connecting via email. Parents of preschool-aged children have an opportunity to communicate with teachers regularly by planning to spend a few minutes in the child’s classroom each morning at drop-off. Not only will this ensure that parents can provide valuable updates about the child and can inquire about what’s happening in the classroom, this will also support the child’s confidence so that the student can begin each day feeling secure and ready to learn. By sharing the family’s expertise about their student’s strengths, learning style, experiences and personality, parents and caregivers are preparing teachers to plan more intentionally so that the educator can better meet each student’s classroom needs. This is how a positive family-school relationship is established through communication and collaboration.
Discuss and Establish a Family Vision for a Successful School Year
Everyone has a varying definition or vision of what success means to them. For some families, a successful school year may mean that the student’s grades increase, while another family hopes that their child will make more friends or increase participation in extra-curricular activities. By discussing each family member’s goals for the year, the family as a whole can begin to share a vision for success and make plans for how the whole family will support that vision throughout the school year. If the vision is to increase homework completion rates or grades, adults can support this goal by providing the learner with a quiet place to do their homework. Younger siblings can pitch in too by committing to respect their sibling’s need for quiet by planning to play in a different room whenever their brother or sister is engaged in school work. For younger children, a successful school year may require that the child gets into a consistent bedtime routine so that they are prepared to learn by receiving plenty of sleep each night. The family can support by participating in an evening routine that will ensure enough time for the young student to transition through dinner, play time and reading before bed. After establishing a vision for success and the steps needed to accomplish the vision, the family can revisit their goals periodically by opening up a discussion about what the family is currently doing to support their shared vision or any steps that are needed to get back on the track to a successful school year.
Clayton Wants to Know
- How did your family prepare for the school year? Are there any strategies that have made a positive impact for your family or are there strategies that you would like to adopt?
- Was your child anxious or excited about the upcoming school year? Were your student’s feelings about starting school similar or different from your own as a parent or caregiver?
- What do you wish that your child’s teachers had known about your student before the first day of school?