By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Tupelo kindergarten students who attended the district’s pre-K program outperformed those who did not on a recent test.
District leaders presented an update on its Early Childhood Education Center during Tuesday’s School Board meeting. They noted the scores of kindergarten students on a common assessment given last December.
The common assessment is a test developed by the district to monitor the progress of students throughout the year. In the older grades, it helps the district to see how well students are prepared for the state tests.
On the test given to last year’s kindergarten students, the average math score for the 215 students who had attended the district’s pre-K the previous year was 92.5 out of 100. The average for the 392 students who did not was 89.36.
In language, the average was 89.31 for those who had attended the ECEC and 86.31 for those who did not.
“With the efforts of teachers and the high level of involvement with parents at the ECEC, it is exciting to see how the children who attend the ECEC are ahead of other children in reading and math, according to the common assessment,” said Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden.
The data provided confirmation for district leaders about the benefits of the ECEC, an optional program available for 4-year-olds. Tupelo has been trying to expand the center and recently added a new class of 20 students.
It currently serves 236 pre-K students and 29 special education students, for a total enrollment of 265. First priority is given to students who show the greatest academic need.
The school also serves a large number of low-income students. About 63 percent of its students qualify for federal free- and reduced-price lunches.
“We want to see when they are starting school, they have a greater success rate,” said TPSD Federal Programs Director Anna Guntharp. “It was encouraging to look at those common assessments.”
Loden said the district also is working to provide long-term data on the performance of students from the ECEC.
“It is great to have a program and have a system of monitoring that is far from anecdotal,” said School Board President Rob Hudson. “The data is telling us that ECEC is on the right track.”
ECEC lead teacher Anita Buchanan also presented data that showed that the school’s current students have made progress on several literacy and math skills this year. That is according to a screening test that was given to students at the beginning of the year and again during the year.
The number of students scoring proficient grew significantly on several skills, including letter naming, counting and recognizing numerals. The number scoring minimal declined.
The ECEC also has had a high parental involvement, Buchanan said, noting that it has a 96 percent parent participation rate this year.
Meanwhile, Loden noted the school district is a finalist to receive grant money under Mississippi’s new Early Learning Collaborative Act. Tupelo would use those funds to expand the ECEC’s resource center that provides educational materials to young children. It also would add technology and art programs to the ECEC and offer training to pre-K teachers throughout the county. Grant winners could be announced before Christmas, Loden said.