Making a Difference: 10 Essential Steps to Building a PreK–3 System

Books

Linda Sullivan-Dudzic, Donna K. Gearns & Kelli Leavell

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
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  • Dedication

    We could not have written this book without the dedication of so many others who laid the foundation and contributed to building this PreK–3 grade system. Thank you to all who helped us in this process, trained with us, and continue to enrich the lives of children.

    Linda dedicates this book to her husband, Tom; to their children, Serene and Jordan; to extended family; and to the many children, families, and colleagues who have paved the way and committed their lives to this important work. Every life has meaning and a purpose, and I am thankful for your courage to put your individual interests aside and stand up for our children.

    Donna dedicates this book to her husband, Ron, and sons, Howard and Eric. Their support and encouragement has made this dream a reality. Thank you to the directors, teachers, and colleagues who have participated in trainings and welcomed me into your classrooms and homes. Your work and passion for children are truly making a difference in the lives of children.

    Kelli dedicates this book to her husband, Aaron, their two sons, Kellen and Corbin, and her extended family. This book would not have become a reality without your patience, support, and forgiveness for the long hours spent on research and writing. I would also like to thank the leaders and educators both in the Bremerton School District and in districts across the country that I have had the opportunity to work with. Your dedication to the educational profession and to the children you teach is inspiring.

    Copyright

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    Foreword

    Since the 1970s, the United States has not only lost its standing as the country with the highest rates of college graduation in the world, it is also a country where K–12 educational achievement remains stubbornly stable at less than globally competitive levels. These basic facts are profoundly disturbing for a democracy that values individual achievement and effort as the path to a good life.

    Educational success remains the path by which Americans improve their economic status from one generation to the next. Getting on that path begins early in life, even prenatally. Thus, policymakers and others focus on the critical importance of the early years in a child's life and the role that families play in being the child's “first teachers.” However, since the end of the Second World War, American children now spend more time outside the home in a wide variety of family child care homes, Head Start, and prekindergarten (PreK) programs. States are beginning to recognize the value of quality PreK programs in contributing to the educational success of children.

    These programs vary in their educational quality, and few are connected with the K–12 educational system. Typically there is a gap between the early childhood and the K–12 education systems that is inefficient and acts to obstruct the creation of a seamless continuum of learning for children from prekindergarten to kindergarten through third grade (PreK–3). As a result, even gains from quality PreK programs can fade out when children encounter poor quality elementary grade classrooms.

    In what I call “a movement from the base”—a movement among educators in schools and in school districts—this gap is being closed through the thoughtful, innovative, and deep commitment of individuals who care about the educational success of all of America's children. Whether in Bremerton (Washington) or in Montgomery County (Maryland) or in First School (North Carolina), educators are showing that it is possible to put children—especially children who come from immigrant, low-income, or working-class families or are racial/ethnic minorities who do not typically experience good education—on a firm path to a college education and to opportunities for a good life in our country.

    The authors are such educators who worked on connecting their K–12 school district, specifically grades K–3, with the community-based centers serving young children before kindergarten entry, starting in 2000. They did so, because they had a clear goal of increasing the educational achievement of the children in Bremerton. They succeeded. They write from direct experience combined with the ability to reflect on what they have learned and to share it with their colleagues so that many more children can benefit from what they accomplished.

    How did they achieve what has eluded the vast majority of school districts in the United States, specifically those that have high rates of underachievement among their students? The answers to this most significant challenge facing American education are offered in this book in a clear, engaging, and useful manner. The lessons learned are ones that I have seen in other school districts and schools throughout the country that successfully integrate their early learning/PreK programs with their K–12 systems and have results to show for it. It is not rocket science. It is the plain hard work of creating an educational experience based on what works.

    Here is how it can happen. Leadership—whether a superintendent or a principal—is key to articulating a focused goal of increasing the numbers of children who successfully complete their PreK–12 education. That individual, including being an instructional leader, must navigate through the normal political thicket that is part of any school district.

    A team of dedicated, patient educators with their eyes on the prize and respect for all they work with, especially community members and staff in early learning programs, must work well with the leader to create a shared sense of purpose exemplified in joint professional development between the PreK and the K–3 staff working together on a common, aligned curriculum, which is democratically chosen. Instruction is constantly informed by data—what children are learning—and instruction is modified based on ongoing assessments of children's progress. Accountability is a hallmark and results are widely shared.

    Every child can succeed, if more educators understood what it takes to create schools and districts where children can thrive. Such schools and districts begin with full-day prekindergarten and kindergarten programs that are laser-focused on instruction and learning. These schools use a standards-based curriculum, supported by shared professional development, shared diagnostic assessments, and shared accountability between educators and families. The entire effort is disciplined and data-driven.

    To my knowledge, this is the first ever book to be written for educators on the path to implementing PreK–3 approaches. As more policymakers and educators see the value of these approaches, and they will, this book will pave the way to high quality and thoughtful implementation. The specificity and clarity of what needs to be done will be useful to those who have day-to-day responsibility for students. This is a guide written by their colleagues, who have walked the talk.

    If we can get more schools and districts on this path, America will regain its entire educational leadership role. That time cannot come too soon.

    RubyTakanishi, President, Foundation for Child Development New York City May 2009

    Acknowledgments

    The authors would like to thank Jessica Allan, first for her belief in us and this project, then for her assistance, guidance, and words of wisdom throughout this process.

    In addition, Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    • Sue Haas
    • Kindergarten Teacher
    • Big Bend School
    • Big Bend, WI
    • Brenda Hood
    • Special Assistant to the State Superintendent
    • Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
    • Olympia, WA
    • Cindy Luna
    • NAESP 2004 National Distinguished Principal
    • Northside ISD
    • Texas Elementary Principal's Association
    • San Antonio, TX
    • Ganna Maymind
    • First-Grade Teacher
    • Asher Holmes Elementary School
    • Morganville, NJ
    • Wilma Robles-Melendez, PhD
    • Program Professor of Early Childhood Education
    • Nova Southeastern University
    • North Miami Beach, FL
    • Patti Ulshafer
    • First-Grade Teacher
    • Wilson Borough Elementary School
    • Easton, PA
    • Sally Wingle
    • Preschool Teacher
    • Chelsea Community Preschool, Chelsea School District
    • Chelsea, MI

    About the Authors

    Linda Sullivan-Dudzic, MSEd, has spent the past 30 years connecting the years from early childhood through Grades K–12 to the higher education system. Prior to entering the fields of speech language pathology, curriculum and instruction, special education, and Title I, she learned a great deal from her mother, Lillian Sullivan, who started one of the first quality preschool programs in the 60s, The Julie Ann Nursery School, which included students with disabilities. Built on this strong early foundation, Linda continued her educational training and experience as a speech language pathologist at Kitsap Community Resources Head Start and started one of the first cooperative public school and Head Start service agreements to serve children with disabilities. Linda's advocacy for early childhood education and students with disabilities continued with her work with the public school system (birth to 12th grade) as a special programs director, as well as with her work in higher education designing and teaching college level courses, and finally, with her work with others to create a faith-based private preschool whose mission is to provide quality education to families who cannot afford preschool.

    It is her hope that this book will benefit people who have dedicated their lives to the children and families they serve. Linda and her husband, Tom, have had their lives enriched by their two children, Serene and Jordan.

    Donna K. Gearns, MSEd, began her teaching careerin self-contained preschool, elementary, and middle-school classrooms for students with learning disabilities. As an itinerant special education teacher, she discovered the importance of building relationships with staff and directors in community preschool settings, a critical step in the process of developing a PreK–3 grade system. Her work in quality preschool classrooms and collaboration with committed teachers and directors allowed her the opportunity to facilitate the use of common curriculum and its implementation in community preschool settings. Donna currently is a teacher on special assignment (TOSA) for Bremerton School District. In addition to working with community preschool programs, she is an assistive technology specialist for students from preschool through high school. Her goal is to make a difference for children and teachers by providing resources, information, and support. Donna and her husband have two sons and live with their three dogs in Seabeck, Washington.

    Kelli Leavell started her career working as a special education teacher in the Bremerton School District. After several years in the classroom, she took her current position as a part-time district teacher on special assignment (TOSA). As a TOSA, Kelli has had the opportunity to coordinate the district English language learner program. She also provides coaching and training focused on districtwide initiatives like Response to Intervention, Title I services, reading instruction and alignment, and classroom management. Kelli also helps coordinate several grants in partnership with state and private foundations. In addition to her work as a TOSA, Kelli is also a national independent reading consultant. Over the last seven years, this role has allowed her to work with a multitude of wonderful schools and districts across the nation. She is currently working on a degree in education leadership to earn her administrative credential. Her goal is to continue to help districts connect, align, and improve education services for all children. Kelli and her husband, Aaron, reside in Silverdale, Washington, with their two sons, Kellen and Corbin.

  • Resources

    Resource A: Books and Web Sites

    Classroom Resources
    Adams, M.J., Foorman, B.R., Lundberg, I., & Beeler, T. (1997). Phonemic awareness in young children: A classroom curriculum. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.
    Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., & Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction. St. Louis, MO: San Val.
    Blevins, W. (1999). Phonics from A to Z (grades K–3): A practical guide. New York: Teaching Resources.
    Cummings, C. (2000). Winning strategies for classsroom management. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Adams, M.J., Foorman, B.R., Lundberg, I., & Beeler, T. (1997). Phonemic awareness in young children: A classroom curriculum. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.
    Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., & Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction. St. Louis, MO: San Val.
    Blevins, W. (1999). Phonics from A to Z (grades K–3): A practical guide. New York: Teaching Resources.
    Cummings, C. (2000). Winning strategies for classsroom management. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Florida Center for Reading Research. Student center activities. Retrieved from http://www.fcrr.org/Curriculum/SCAindex.htm
    Martin, J., & Milstein, V. (2007). Integrating math into the early childhood clasroom: Actvities and research-based strategies that build math skills, concepts, and vocabulary into classroom routines, learning centers, and more. New York: Scholastic.
    Marzano, R.J. (2004). Building background knowledge for academic achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Sprick, R., Garrison, M., & Howard, L. (1998). CHAMPs: A proactive and positive approach to classroom management. Longmont, CO: Sopris West.
    Early Childhood
    Bowman, B.T., Donovan, M.S., & Burns, M.S. (2000). Eager to learn: Educating our preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
    The Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA) is a national center for research on early reading. Their Web site is http://www.ciera.org
    The National Association for the Education of Young Children. This is a professional organization that promotes excellence in early childhood. Resources and current issues in early childhood are highlighted at http://www.naeyc.org/
    National Association for the Education of Young Children. Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/position%20statement%20Web.pdf
    National Association for the Education of Young Children. Where we stand on curriculum, assessment, and program evaluation. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/positionstatements
    National Center for Education Statistics. Early childhood longitudinal study, kindergarten class of 1998–99 (ECLS-K) kindergarten through eighth grade. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/ecls/
    National Institute for Literacy. Developing early literacy: Report of the national early literacy panel. Retrieved from http://www.nifl.gov/
    Neuman, S., Roskos, K., Wright, T., & Lenhart, L. (2007). Nurturing knowledge: Building a foundation for school success by linking early literacy to math, science, art, and social studies. New York: Scholastic.
    Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Washington State: A guide to assessment in early childhood: Infancy to age eight. Retrieved from http://www.k12.wa.us/earlylearning.guideassess.aspx
    Families
    The Florida Center for Reading Research provides grade-level resources and suggestions for families to use at home. Their Web site is http://www.fcrr.org/curriculum/curriculumForParents.htm
    Parenting Matters publishes newsletters for organizations focused on families with children from birth through third grade. For more information e-mail website@parentingmatters.org or call toll free: 1-866-943-KIDS (5437).
    The Washington Research Institute and the University of Washington have developed a literacy series calledLanguage is the Key. Their Web site is http://www.walearning.com/
    Leadership
    Leman, K., & Pentak, W. (2004). The way of the shepherd: 7 ancient secrets to managing productive people. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
    National Association of Elementary School Principals. (2005). What principals should know and be able to do: Leading early childhood learning communities. Retrieved from http://www.leadershiplinc.ilstu.edu/downloads/whatprincipalsshouldknow.pdf
    Simmons, D.C., & Kame'enuiE.J. (2003, March). A consumer's guide to evaluating a core reading program grades K–3: A critical elements analysis. Retrieved from http://reading.uoregon.edu/cia/curricula/con_guide.php
    Learning Disabilities
    Fletcher, J.M., Lyon, G.R., Fuchs, L.S., & Barnes, M.A. (2007). Learning disabilities: From identification to intervention. New York: The Guilford Press.
    Learning Disabilities International has free resources and research for parents and educators. Their Web site is http://www.ldanatl.org
    Shaywitz, S.E. (2004). Overcoming dyslexia. New York: Knopf.
    Research
    Caine, R.N., Caine, G., McClintic, C., & Klimek, K.J. (2009). 12 brain/mind principles in action: Developing executive functions of the human brain
    (2nd ed.).
    Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    The Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA) is a national center for research on early reading. Their Web site is http://www.ciera.org/
    ED Pubs. You can order free U.S. Department of Education publications from ED Pubs, Education Publications Center, U.S. Department of Education, P.O. Box 1398, Jessup, MD 20794–1398. Their Web site is http://edpubs.ed.gov/
    The Foundation for Child Development provides research, support, and information for those individuals seeking to restructure and improve the quality of PreK–3 education. Their Web site is http://www.fcd-us.org/
    National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008). Foundations for success: The final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
    The National Right to Read Foundation. A synthesis of research on reading from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Retrieved from http://www.nrrf.org
    Willis, J. (2007). Brain-friendly strategies for the inclusion classroom: Insights from a neurologist and classroom teacher. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Contact

    Resource B: Suggested Outline for Your First Leadership Meeting

    Resource C: Leadership Guide

    Reviewing Our Goals and Our Impact on Children
    Review Our GoalsAre We Making a Significant Difference?
    • Are they still relevant?
    • Do we need to expand or modify them based on children's outcomes?
    • If so, what are the next steps?
    • What have we accomplished together for children and families?
    • How do we know that we are making a difference? (Data gathering?)
    • Are we satisfied with the growth that children are making?
    • What other information do we need (if any)?
    • How are we maximizing the gains that children have made in preschool and working to align our efforts with kindergarten?
    • Is there more that we need to be doing?
    Our Leadership (ECCE Group)Looking Ahead
    • What if the ECCE went away tomorrow?
    • What are the benefits (if any)
      • to you?
      • to your program?
      • to the teachers and staff?
      • to the children and families?
    • Do we need to adjust or change?
    • Are we building sustainability?
    • Do we have shared leadership?
    • Are we publicizing our successes?
    • Are there other preschools that we are not reaching that might want to join our efforts?
    • What are the next steps?

    Resource D: Curriculum Adoption Form

    Resource E: Grow and Glow Self-Reflection Form

    Resource F: What to Look for in Early Childhood Centers

    Resource G: Guide to Four Key Components of Sustainability

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    Willis, J. (2007). Brain-friendly strategies for the inclusion classroom: Insights from a neurologist and classroom teacher. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

    CORWIN: A SAGE Company

    The Corwin logo—a raven striding across an open book—represents the union of courage and learning. Corwin is committed to improving education for all learners by publishing books and other professional development resources for those serving the field of PreK–12 education. By providing practical, hands-on materials, Corwin continues to carry out the promise of its motto: “Helping Educators Do Their Work Better.”


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