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K-4 program sees success at local level

In order to have a fulfilling future, it is vital to have a bright beginning.

The Butler County School System’s Pre-K program, Bright Beginnings, is designed to provide a child-centered, literacy-focused curriculum to ensure that all children in Butler County enter kindergarten ready to learn.

According to Gerry Adair, administrative assistant to the superintendent, Bright Beginnings is a full-day, literacy-based initiative for 4-year-olds who have identified educational needs.

&uot;Bright Beginnings currently serves approximately 125 to 150 students,&uot; she said Wednesday.

The classes are taught at the old Greenville High School on School Highland Road.

Adair was onsite to receive a check from Rep. Charles Newton and Melissa Partin of the Alabama Office of School Readiness for $60,000 to help in funding the program.

What is Bright Beginnings?

Children in the program are provided with a clean, safe and secure environment.

Adair said they are offered enjoyable, hands-on activities that are designed to encourage exploration and growth.

&uot;We focus on helping Pre-K children enhance their gross and fine motor skills and use all senses in learning,&uot; she said.

&uot;A child finishing the program moves on to kindergarten and is ready to learn.&uot;

The programs schedules time for active play, project and circle time and they even include time when a four-year-old wants to be alone.

&uot;We use materials and equipment that require children to use their new motor skills to develop them,&uot; Adair said.

Just visit the center on School Highlands Road and you find classrooms that once housed high school students converted in bright colored child sized spaces.

The classrooms are organized and offer the children a place they can trust and people they can trust.

&uot;Our teachers are all highly qualified and are experienced in early childhood development and education, who enjoy and understand how young children learn and grow,&uot; Adair said. &uot;Our teachers model and communicate to children the appropriate ways to express themselves and interact and problem solve. Our goal eventually is to have the program large enough and with funding so that every four-year-old has the opportunity to learn.&uot;

Needed funding

Newton was on site to learn more about the program and the success it is experiencing.

&uot;We want the legislature to know what we are doing and how important it is to have the program in place,&uot; she said.

Partin said the program statewide has received a total of $3.1 million.

That is a far cry, she said, from what states surrounding states fund their similar programs.

&uot;Florida just passed a bill and signed into law funding Pre-K programs such as this at $400 million,&uot; she said.

&uot;But Arkansas, which is more comparable to Alabama funds similar programs at $40 million.

Louisiana funds theirs at $36 million.&uot;

She said Georgia pays $256 million so that every four-year-old in the state can attend a public Pre-K program.

Adair said many people will call the system’s central office to inquire about K-4 programs in the county.

&uot;We had a call from a couple in Mississippi who wanted to know if we had a high-quality K-4 program,&uot; she said.

&uot;People who have seen the progress know how important this type of program is to society.

It is also an important tool for economic development.&uot;

Partin cited a study by the Economic Policy Institute that concluded communities that have high-quality Pre-K programs were more successful in economic development.

Data proves it works

Adair shared the data from 18 of the current students in the program from their DIEBELS standardized test that they took at the beginning of the school year and at the end of the first semester.

&uot;Of the 18 Bright Beginnings students who attended last year, 17 were tested during fall of 2004,&uot; she said. &uot;One student moved away.

They were tested in the categories of initial sound fluency and letter naming.&uot;

She said of the 18 students tested, 14 students or 82 percent were ranked low risked compared with 56 percent for the school system.

On letter naming of the Bright Beginning students tested, 88 percent were ranked low risk compared to 51 percent for the school system.

&uot;At the end of the school year last year, seven students were reading by decoding words and 10 students were reading by decoding words and sight reading,&uot; Adair said.

One student who came in unable to recognize any uppercase letters was tested midway through the year recognizing 22 letter of the alphabet.

That same child could not write any of his letters but midway through could write 13.

&uot;We had one child who could not recognize any uppercase letters and when tested recognized 25 letters,&uot; Adair said.

Adair said she is excited about the future for Butler County’s students who go through the program and looks forward to the day when it their success is measured by their bright beginning experience.

Not enough space or money

This program does have a screening process.

Adair said a waiting list is maintained and that parents will soon have the opportunity to apply for the next school year.

But it takes commitment, she said.

To learn more about Bright Beginnings, call Adair at 382-2665.