By: Ms. Becca – DLX Teacher
Discovery Learning Extra is a Pilot program that was launched in the Fall of 2012 in hopes of adding to the District 728’s mission to educate, inspire, and empower all learners starting at the very beginning.
Many surrounding districts, especially in the metro area have had similar programs in place, and were getting great results, so it was important for ISD 728 to give it a try. We have already had so much success in our existing Discovery Learning Preschool Programs, so we wanted to broaden our outreach.
Discovery Learning Extra is intended to give the children and families that are enrolled “an extra helping” of school readiness time and instruction before they enter Kindergarten.
Families and children were referred from Early Childhood Screening, ECFE home visitors, school social workers, principals, early childhood special education, and those identified as English Language Learners, siblings of Title I students, families with income or behavior challenges, or other circumstances.
Three classes were created, two at Handke Family Center in Elk River, and one in Zimmerman. The families were offered transportation to class five mornings, or four afternoons a week. (In comparison to a two or three day a week class for most Discovery Learning classes). They also attended once a month family nights, participated in a family reading program, and were required to volunteer in class at least once throughout the school year.
Formal literacy assessments, and social-emotional growth tracking were completed three times throughout the school year. The amount of progress was incredible. Most of the students started behind peers in other classes, and ended on target or beyond in Spring time testing. Four and Five day a week classes helped kids to have consistency in their learning and lives, but also gain independence and grow in essential skills to be successful in the future. Skills including children’s ability to form relationships and interact with others and to attend and engage at group learning times.
In our second year, we hope to empower more children and families, and to get the word out about the idea of intensive early childhood education. It is our hope that the district will expand funding and space for early childhood throughout the entire district. We hope to have our preschool programs as a permanent and serious fixture in ISD 728. We hope to give more children the “extra helping” that all young kids deserve.