Pottsgrove pursues earlier outreach to pre-Kindergarten families

These two giant koi on display last year at Ringing Rocks were created as a collaborative art project between the kindergartners and area pre-schools. Each student created a scale on the fish that represented them.

WEST POTTSGROVE >> In an effort to close an “achievement gap” experienced by students in the district’s low-income households, educators want to reach out and get familiar with those households before they’re even in school.

For those students, “the achievement gap is already there before they even come in the door,” West Pottsgrove Elementary Principal Terri Koehler told the school board during a presentation made the Jan. 10 meeting.

The gap starts so early, she said, because it is often caused by less literacy in the home and early child care which does not build a foundation for education.

“The demographics of the district have changed in the last 10 years and its showing up in our kindergarten screenings and our test scores,” Koehler said.

So the district has begun a multi-pronged outreach effort in an attempt to make contact with those families as soon as possible.

That has included meeting with nursery schools in the area about their program, as well as looking at reviving in-person face-to-face kindergarten registration as a way to encourage more involvement from the home.

“Of the five Head Starts in the Pottstown area, about half of all of those students will go to Pottsgrove Schools,” Koehler said.

In fact, the connection was begun last year when a joint art project between the two lower grade schools and area pre-schools was initiated and put on display at Ringing Rocks Elementary School.

Pottsgrove officials have also initiated meetings with the leaders in Pottstown’s highly regarded PEAK early education program for suggestions and to look at ways they can collaborate.

School board member Rick Rabinowitz thanked Koehler and her team for the effort.

“I have always thought the lion’s share of our test score problems start with the language deficit problems children from disadvantaged homes start school with,” he said.

Al Leach, the board vice president, said he has often felt the demographics were being “used as a crutch” for the district’s low test scores and he is pleased to see the district finally doing something about it.

He added that it would be helpful to erase the stigma being attached to the effort by making frequent reference to low-income households “and just put it into effect.”

School board member Patricia Grimm noted that this initiative points out that the district’s decision of several years ago to full-day kindergarten was warranted.

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