Betsy Trapp | St. Louis ‘06
It’s 3:15pm and I leave my post at the front door where I assist the pick-ups and walkers at dismissal time and head downstairs to the preschool room where I work in the after school program. I open the door to the preschool and there before me are 9 four-year-olds. “Miss. Betsy!” they yell. They stop playing and run over to give me a hug. I hug them back. They along with their 13 other classmates enrolled in our inaugural full-day preschool program drive my belief that it is possible to close the achievement gap. They give me hope.
During the school day, I work in small groups with Kindergarten, First and Second grade students who are reading below grade level. I support these students as they work to catch up to their peers. But what if these students didn’t have to play catch up? What if the Kindergarten students knew their letters and letter sounds? What if they could spell and write their names? What if they could identify numbers, count, and identify shapes and patterns? What if all of our Kindergarten students had attended a quality preschool?
This past January, in his State of the Union Address, President Obama revisited his idea of making quality Early Childhood Education available to all families.
His idea is to reverse funding cuts to the Head Start programs and expand funding to states for quality early childhood programs through Race to the Top.
There are others who argue that federally funded early childhood programs are ineffective and expensive.
While there continues to be a national debate on whether federal funding should be spent on quality Early Childhood Education programs, our preschool teachers are preparing these 22 students for Kindergarten by teaching them how to:
- Recognize and follow classroom expectations
- Follow procedures and directions
- Clean up and organize their things
- Line up and transition throughout the building
- Sit and listen to their teacher and classmates
- Play and take turns
In addition, our preschool students are learning many of the same foundational skills as our Kindergarten students. The preschool students are learning:
- Letter names and sounds
- How to spell and write their names
- Handwriting and how to form letters and numbers
- Identifying numbers and counting
- Identifying shapes and patterns
- Colors, days of the week, months of the year
- Sight words
A lot of time is spent in the first weeks of Kindergarten learning “How To Be Students”. Procedures and behavior expectations are critical components to an effective classroom and many students enter Kindergarten without this background knowledge. Imagine if students arrived the first day of Kindergarten having attended a quality preschool. Teachers could dive into the Kindergarten content sooner allowing students to progress farther faster.
As I’m waiting for the last preschool student to be picked up from after school, I hear, “I can spell my name.”
“Ok. Spell it.”
D-A-R-N-E-L-L he answers.*
Yep, I have hope.
2006 St. Louis Corps Member
*Names were changed for this post.