Pilot program aims to prepare students

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NAUGATUCK — The number of students not prepared to enter kindergarten has school officials concerned.

Board of Education Curriculum Director Caroline Messenger said of the 194 students registered to enter kindergarten next school year, only 11 percent know all the letters in the alphabet and only 25 percent can count above 20.

“The kids are not coming in ready,” Messenger said.

That is where a pilot program for pre-kindergarten readiness comes in.

The program, which is starting this summer, is designed to help students rise to the level that is expected of them when they begin kindergarten.

Messenger, who presented the program to the school board last week, said the program will primarily focus on literacy and numeracy. This means the students will be learning the sounds and shapes of letters and numbers, as well as basic math concepts.

The program will run at Andrew Avenue Elementary School from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. on weekdays from July 6 through July 31. The program will feature an hour of physical education and lunch will be provided by the national non-profit No Kid Hungry.

The board has partnered with the Department of Public Works to provide activities for students from 1 until 5 p.m., Messenger said.

Messenger said only 25 students will be enrolled in the program this year since it’s a pilot program. According to Messenger, the students are going to be chosen based on data from kindergarten assessments they took when they registered for school.

“We identified students who would benefit the most from intervention and kindergarten readiness programming,” Messenger said.

The program will be offered at no charge to parents, Messenger said.

The program is expected to cost approximately $12,000, Messenger said. Naugatuck Partnership for Children, formerly known as Naugatuck Discovery, will pay for half of the program, Messenger said. The rest will be paid for by the Board of Education.

Messenger said this type of program will help students not only in kindergarten, but throughout their academic careers.

“If students don’t come to us with a foundation of pre-literacy then they may be starting behind their peers. From the get-go these students will be playing catch up. What we know from research is when students start behind they don’t catch-up. We want to intervene before students even come to school and give them the necessary skills,” Messenger said.