Every year, scores of Greenwich children begin kindergarten at a distinct, quantifiable disadvantage from their classmates. Though all Greenwich residents are entitled to the privilege that is our impressive public school system, many do not have access to high-quality early childhood/preschool education that sets them up for long-term academic success. Because of this, they are more likely to spend the entirety of their elementary education trying to catch up to their classmates. As a community, shouldn’t we ensure every child in town has the opportunity to start kindergarten on a level playing field?
Achievement gaps occur when one group of students outperforms another and the difference in average scores for the two groups is statistically significant. For the last three years, the Greenwich United Way (GUW) has been hard at work developing and implementing a program that aims to close this gap – Early Childhood Achievement Gap Solutions (ECAGS). The two-pronged approach consists of a prenatal to three years old portion – Greenwich Parents as Teachers (described in my article on January 29) – and Pre-School Instructional Coaching (PSIC) benefitting 3- and 4-year-olds.
To carry out the PSIC approach, the GUW hired a full-time preschool instructional coach who utilizes the Jim Knight coaching model, focusing on providing a dedicated partner for teachers and facilitating evidence-based practices that improve teaching and learning, so students can be more successful. She creates and implements a consistent personalized curriculum across all the classrooms she covers. She also ensures assessments are done accurately and timely to provide an accurate picture of the students’ strengths and weaknesses, empowering the teachers to identify and address areas in need of improvement. Additionally, as part of coaching, the instructional coach provides real-time, on-site professional development for teachers. This is especially important because while most schools can close for professional development, schools involved in PSIC cannot because they are full-day (8am-6pm) programs that working parents rely on.
The preschool instructional coach works with the Family Centers preschools, which serve a large percentage of low-income families with children between the ages of 3-5. Beginning in September 2018, our program annually serves roughly 175 preschool students, 47 teachers and administrators, and 16 preschool classes, delivering more than 1,000 hours of PSIC coaching hours.
The Connecticut State Department of Education’s Fall Kindergarten Entrance Inventory (KEI) assesses proficiency in six domains: language, literacy, numeracy, physical, creative and personal. ECAGS students have an average score above non-ECAGS peers in the High Needs and Free or Reduced-Price Launch (FRL) qualifying cohorts, as evidenced by the data outlined in the graph.
The bottom line: ECAGS students are better prepared for kindergarten.
We continue to build on our program’s successes this year and identify new community impact partners that support the ECAGS approach to narrow the achievement gap. As we receive additional achievement gap data from our partners and track our students in the Greenwich Public Schools, we tweak our methods on an ongoing basis to better prepare our youngest residents to succeed academically.
Your call to action? Support our “Drive to 425.” I am available for your questions and suggestions; call me to discuss ways you can join this effort. Join us in our effort to deliver the highest quality early childhood experience which is proven to break the cycle of poverty and give our children the best chance at a lifetime of success.
David Rabin is the CEO of Greenwich United Way