October 7, 2016

RSU14 kindergarten finds success with Jump Start Program - By Stephen Signor

Jump Start is a 4 hours-a-day, 4 days a week program that is designed for at risk learners entering Kindergarten. As Melissa Boire, academic interventionist explained, “This program is literacy focused. Through the use of visuals children are taught to name letters by sound while reading them aloud.” 

Using diverse methods the learning experience is more than educational. “The classes were also designed to be fun and provide activities so students are not just sitting around. They are taught to make and recognize letters using modeling clay and even using their bodies to make letters, either while they are standing or lying on the floor,” she continued.

A child’s need is determined by a prescreening process for eligibility established by Developmental Indicator for the Assessment of Learning (DIAL), a norm-referenced screening instrument. It is meant to identify young children (ages 3 to 6 years, 11 months) at-risk or with delays in one or more of the following five developmental areas: Cognitive/basic concepts, language, motor, self-help and social-emotional. Tasks are individually administered, and a parent questionnaire is also completed at the time of the screening. 

Nine behaviors are also observed during the testing session, including how willingly the child participates in testing and how well the child pays attention to the tasks. This instrument can be administered in a variety of settings, including schools, pediatric offices and homes. Administration time is approximately 30 minutes. A condensed version, the Speed DIAL, can be administered in 15 minutes.

The importance of individualized learning is evident. “This year we have two classes of 15 students each. There are always two teachers per class, all certified and working within the district, along with a floating teacher. Additionally there is one AmeriCorps volunteer per class so there can at one given time be 4 adults per class of 15,” explained Boire.

Jump Start results showed that when it came to letter naming fluency, on day one 33 percent met the benchmark followed by 83 percent on day 19, those of which 9 percent exceeded the benchmark. For letter sound fluency on day one 11 percent met benchmark followed by 100 percent on day 19, which of those 50 percent exceeded the benchmark. 

So far there has been a lot of positive feedback. The task is not an easy one as presently there are 11 kindergarten classes at Windham Primary School and 3 in Raymond. 

“The only negative received was from a parent who wished that numbers were included in the program,” Boire shared.

There is a supplemental district program in place that follows up to, and based on, the Jump Start program where reading, spelling and a writing workshop is incorporated.  “New for 2016, Boost was designed as a part of a team endeavor to provide summer programming for students entering first grade who, as a part of the 90 percent goal, are not yet demonstrating that they have solidly developed skills to be prepared for an entering first grade literacy standard. The catalyst for Boost is that we know from analysis of student data that for 88% of students, those who attain a certain benchmark prior to entering first grade will meet the end of first and end of second grade benchmarks,” explained education consultant Carrie Thurston.

Students are invited to participate based on Spring Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) performance and teachers input. Currently there is one class of 15 students with a program director always on site. According to Thurston, “We have a 90 percent proficiency and growth goal.” What does this mean for those students? “It sets the target of 90 percent of all kindergarten students to be reading at a benchmark DRA level 4 prior to entering first grade. The Department of Education has recently mandated that all students be screened for dyslexia. The 90 percent benchmark meets those criteria.” 

The fall benchmark for students is determined by districts. “There is consistent evidence that certain benchmarks will enable students to continue to remain on level. Benchmarks are a part of universal screening and typically take place three times a year in schools, fall, winter and spring. In its first year results are favorable and encouraging. Results for Boost on day one revealed that 25 percent met the end of year kindergarten benchmark. On day 19 that percentage increased to 92 percent of which 23 percent exceeded the benchmark,” continued Thurston. 

Thurston has consulted with a number of Southern Maine School Districts that have a 90 percent goal of having 90 percent or more of their kindergarten students enter the first grade at a reading level that meets the benchmark. With 25 years in education and having been a special education teacher, as well as a director of pupil services with experience both in Maine and International schools,  she said,  “My goal with the work is to have students reach a level of literacy success by the end of their kindergarten year so that they will not require literacy intervention.” To this she added, “In order for a child to access and benefit from their educational experience, it is paramount that they are capable readers. We know that when we attain this standard prior to a child entering first grade, they have the skill sets to be successful.”

Further information can be obtained at www.kjsearlyliteracy.com and

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