Last Modified: Sunday, June 24, 2012 5:29 AM
A report indicates a program for at-risk pre-K students in Louisiana is producing astonishing results.
The Nonpublic Schools Early Childhood Development program is being credited with helping these students in the state achieve higher test scores than the national average, according to the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
The program provides services to at-risk 4-year-old students who are enrolled in a nonpublic school and/or a Class A day care. It offers developmentally appropriate material, before- and after-school enrichment activities and vision, hearing and dental screenings through agreements with social service and health-based agencies and community organizations.
The NSECD program served 1,312 pre-K students in the state during the 2010-11 school year. According to the report, 96 percent of those students qualified for free or reduced lunch services.
The report found:
l Four-year-old students significantly improved their test scores at the conclusion of their pre-K experiences and were better prepared for kindergarten and future success. Students who participated in the NSECD program improved their scores in Print from the 14th percentile in the pretest to the 70th percentile in the post test. This means a representative NSECD prekindergarten student’s score in Print was equal to or higher than that of approximately 70 percent of prekindergarten children in the national group.
l Language scores improved from the 14th percentile to the 59th percentile.
Math scores improved from the 9th percentile to the 64th percentile. This Math score is the highest post-test percentile achieved by NSECD students.
The NSECD program continues to close the gap in student performance, regardless of ethnicity or income level. White NSECD participants achieved 94.1 percent of correct responses in Language on the post test, with minority NSECD students achieving 91 percent of correct responses on the post test. The report says this data indicate that the nonpublic Pre-K program is closing the achievement gap among ethnicities.
“The NSECD program has to be considered one of the state’s ‘highlights’ in preschool services to children from low-income families over the past decade,” said Dr. Billy R. Stokes, executive director of the Picard Center.
Though the sample number of students is low, the improvement is nothing short of startling.
Lost in the controversy over tougher tenure standards for public school teachers and the voucher program that allows some students from low-income homes to escape low-performing public schools is Gov. Bobby Jindal’s initiative to provide a single oversight mechanism for pre-K schools and classes throughout the state.
That could ultimately have as big an impact on primary and secondary education in the state as the other two legs of the governor’s education reform package.
Clearly, the NSECD program offers promise. Now the issue is expanding it to more students.