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November 4, 2002

Meridian program helps kids get ready to learn

From: Idaho Statesman, ID
Nov. 4, 2002

Summer session teaches skills for kindergarten

Herbert Atienza
The Idaho Statesman
MERIDIAN — Meagan McCullough´s parents worried about her ability to learn when she was preparing to begin kindergarten this year.

That´s because Meagan started to lose her hearing when she was 4 because of a still-undetermined condition, and her language skills dropped off significantly.

But today, the 6-year-old is one of the best readers in her kindergarten class at Chief Joseph Elementary School in Meridian.

Her parents credit a program called “Pre-K Summer Experience” for giving Meagan the boost she needed.

“It made a world of a difference for her,” said her mother, Suanne McCullough, who is a Meridian School District employee.

Many other parents praise the program which, according to a new district survey, is helping many Meridian students succeed in kindergarten.

“What we´ve noticed is that the children always gain, they always grow and show progress,” said Shawna Exline, the Meridian district´s reading trainer and coordinator for the program.

Since 1998, the school district has assessed students registering for kindergarten by using the Brigance Assessment, which measures the children´s readiness to start kindergarten.

The children are given points for demonstrating skills such as recognizing colors and objects, spelling their names, remembering their addresses and phone numbers, displaying motor and social skills, and counting.

Those who score less than 70 are offered the chance in a three-week program over the summer that could help the children be better prepared for actual school.

“This program really is designed to help children come into kindergarten ready to do kindergarten work,” Exline said.

She said the 2 1/2 -hour daily program allows pupils to work with teachers to strengthen their learning skills through drills, songs and other exercises.

Out of 1,610 pupils who were assessed, about 152 qualified. About 100 actually participated last summer. The sessions were held at Frontier and Mary McPherson elementary schools. The program costs about $60,000, which comes from district general funds.

McCullough said her daughter, who now wears a hearing aid, was “completely immersed” in language and sounds at the program that she was excited to learn how to read by the time regular classes started.

“I was afraid that if she couldn´t hear the sounds, she won´t be able to learn to read,” she said. “They really worked hard on the sounds.”

Jennifer Gutenberger said the program helped her 5-year-old son, Michael, overcome his shyness brought about by the family´s recent move from Utah to the Treasure Valley. Michael now attends Ridgewood Elementary, where he´s made a lot of new friends, she said.

“It was a really good program,” she said. “It got him really excited about starting kindergarten.”

To offer story ideas or comments, contact Herbert Atienza or 377-6413

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© 2002 The Idaho Statesman