District Administration April 2017 - 38


Power of inclusive

PRESCHOOL

KEY TO COLLABORATION-Social-emotional development of
students is a key measurement in Kansas' Blue Valley Schools, which
has moved many of its pre-K classes into a newly designed early
learning center where teachers can work together more easily.

themes, such as math, science or writing. A "play planning" exercise requires pairs of students to map out what they play, how
they'll do it and what materials they need.
They have to write it all down and sometimes they have to
negotiate if a partner wants to do something differently, says
Karen Boozell, the director of special education. "It's one of
the ways we naturally embed academic and pre-academic skills
within play," Boozell says.
A 'growth continuum' starts at 3
A majority of special education students who have attended
inclusive preschool classes at Kingwood Township Schools in
New Jersey have continued in a general education setting in
higher grades, Superintendent Rick Falkenstein says.

The 350-student district-one of the first in that state to
offer inclusive instruction in preschool-places all children on a
"growth continuum" beginning when they're as young as 3. This
allows educators to track emotional and academic growth via
daily observation through second grade-rather than using only
sporadic assessments to measure progress. Educators use iPads,
among other tools, to record evidence of growth, including taking videos and photos that show students' progress in regulating
emotions or delaying gratification.
"Preschool might not close a developmental gap," Falkenstein
says. "We know growth can be uneven, and we want to be flexible because students with disabilities need more flexibility." DA
Matt Zalaznick is senior associate editor.

Assessing inclusive early ed
Learning social skills such as sharing and teamwork in preschool has become all the more critical as kindergarten has
become more rigorous and focused on academic assessments, says Jenifer Cline, student services coordinator at
Great Falls Public Schools in Montana.
In the past, students learned to play cooperatively and
to follow instructions in kindergarten. But those who have
attended preschool arrive in elementary school already having learned those skills and knowing numbers, letters and
basic reading.
That said, preschool educators also need better tools
to conduct broad assessments of students' developmental
needs. Because the brain has such plasticity, there's a wide
range of what can be considered typical development, she
says. "The labels we have for kids right now don't fit-a lot
of preschool students fit under the developmentally delayed
category," Cline says. "We need more targeted assessments

38 April 2017

that can be more specific about where kids are not performing, and what they need."
Better assessments could also lead to the development
of more effective preschool curriculums-which, Cline adds,
can be hard to find.
Aurora Public Schools in Colorado has begun to assess
its inclusive preschool programs by analyzing students' performances in later grades. When, for instance, a student
struggles to hit reading benchmarks in kindergarten, educators can look back at what instruction the student received in
pre-K and adjust early-literacy programs, says Erin Turner, a
preschool special education consultant with the district.
About 80 percent of the district's students reach expected
behavioral norms when they
enter kindergarten-a 24 percent
increase over the last four years,
Turner adds.

District Administration



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration April 2017

District Administration April 2017 - Cover1
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District Administration April 2017 - 1
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