There are many ways to gauge the value of a program. In the case of prekindergarten, you can find data to support whatever position you want to take. Most of the studies, though, support prekindergarten. More importantly, we support prekindergarten. We know from experience with 4-year-olds that prekindergarten makes a difference in ways that are often hard to measure.
Let me tell you about one of our students. The name has been changed, as they say, to protect the innocent.
I would like to share with you the story of a boy named Andy. He is on lunch assistance and comes from a single-parent home. Andy has no contact with his father.
He came to us in the beginning of the year with an Individualized Educational Plan that included assistance in occupational therapy as well as speech. He was visited in the classroom by a special education teacher or assistant three times per week.
Upon entering school, Andy was very quiet, would speak only when spoken to and was very shy around adults as well as peers. He found comfort playing at the sensory light table and would gravitate to this area immediately when he arrived in his classroom.
As students would work on projects and play at various centers in the classroom, Andy would follow along with the other children. However, he was more in the stage of parallel play. He wasn’t ready for group learning activities.
Slowly we began to notice a change in Andy. He started to initiate conversation with peers and then teachers. We found out that Andy was quite funny and liked to be a little comedian.
By December every staff member knew Andy by name. His confidence level soared as he began joining in activities with other children, and we were all amazed at the social butterfly he had become. A leader was emerging from the follower he had once been.
As the year progressed, we were more pleased with the growth Andy showed academically and socially. He tested out of special education services, which reduces the taxpayer-funded expenses for these extra services going forward. Andy will walk into kindergarten as a confident 5-year-old, prepared to continue to grow and be successful.
Prekindergarten made a difference for Andy.
John Quick is superintendent of Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.