School board eliminates readiness program

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REGION 16 — The Region 16 Board of Education has done away with the kindergarten readiness program for next school year.

The program was for students entering kindergarten who weren’t quite ready yet for regular kindergarten for academic or social reasons. Students are screened every year prior to entering kindergarten. If the screening shows a student could use a year of readiness prior to regular kindergarten, the student’s parents are given the option of participating in the program.

Over the past few years, enrollment in the program has been declining, said interim Superintendent of Schools Tim James. A total of 36 children from the district, which covers Beacon Falls and Prospect, were identified for the program next school year, he said, but only 15 parents decided to enroll their children in the program.

Declining interest in the program along with research that shows retention programs, which the readiness program is, aren’t that effective in the long run were the catalysts for eliminating the program, James said.

“This was not a money saving decision,” James said.

Andrea Einhorn, curriculum director and assistant director of special education, researched the retention issue and presented her findings to the board earlier this year.

Through her research, Einhorn found among other insights that delayed entry and readiness classes may not hurt children in the short run, but there is no evidence of a positive effect on either long-term school achievement or adjustment; early interventions may be delayed and not as effective for students retained; the effect on academic skills of being the youngest student disappears for even the highest-risk children by third grade; by adolescence, these early retention practices are predictive of numerous health and emotional risk factors, and associated deleterious outcomes.

The Board of Education had a lengthy debit over the merits of the readiness program during its May 23 meeting. For some members the decision hinged on the fact that the program had already been offered and accepted for 15 children next school year. James told the board the parents of children set for the program were informed that it could potentially be eliminated when they signed up. This information satisfied the board’s concerns over having to cancel the program after it had already been offered and ultimately the board voted, 6-0, to eliminate it.

The eliminated readiness kindergarten classes, one each at Algonquin School in Prospect and Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls, will be replaced with regular kindergarten classes, James said. He added the administration will look to provide whatever necessary resources, like profession development, for teachers to help educate kindergarten students who may be behind their peers.