Posted: 9:04 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015
$4.25 million to assist with student improvement
By http://www.journal-news.com/staff/rick-mccrabb/" rel="nofollow - Staff Writer
The Middletown Community Foundation committed more than $4 million to launch a community-wide collaboration to improve student performance and educational attainment in five local school districts, it announced Thursday night.
T. Duane Gordon, executive director of the MCF, said three years ago the foundation convened a group of nearly 100 volunteers – local experts in their field, representation from each of the five school districts it serves, local United Way staff and volunteers, economic development, workforce development, local institutes of higher learning, practitioners in early childhood education – who donated more than 7,000 hours of service to develop a plan for addressing these needs in the community.
The committee looked over the research, what are the best practices from other communities that have tackled these issues, and what has worked in the Middletown area but needs expansion, and they developed a plan that became “Ready! The Campaign for Our Kids’ Future.”
He said the program will be used in the five districts the MCF serves, Middletown, Monroe, Edgewood, Madison and Franklin.
“It was carefully crafted not to duplicate any work already being done in the community, instead to partner with those agencies seeing success and build their capacity to expand what they’re already doing so that they can serve more children in need in our community,” Gordon told the crowd at Miami Valley Gaming.
The cost for these programs: $3.11 million over five years for early childhood and $1.13 million over five years for high school to total $4.25 million over five years, or $850,000 per year over that time, Gordon said. Because the Community Foundation’s operations are funded through other sources, it’s not deducting any fundraising expenses from these donations, instead depositing all of them to its Ready! Fund to provide for these initiatives.
To date, Gordon said, the MCF has raised about $2 million, mostly in pledges that will be paid over the same five-year period of the program.
He said the pre-school campaign is being named in memory of Dr. Robert Flagel, 75, who passed away on April 5, 2015. Flagel’s death left “a tremendous void” on the committee, Gordon said.
Gordon said the initiative is important because Kindergarten Readiness Assessment for Literacy (KRA-L) test scores need to improve, especially in the Middletown district.
The assessment is mandated by the Ohio Department of Education for all kindergartners, said Suzanne Prescott, director of Early Childhood Programs at the Butler County Educational Service Center. Students take the test the first month of the school year and it measures six elements or essential indicators of early literacy success: answering questions, sentence repetition, rhyming production, rhyming identification, letter identification and initial sounds, she said.
The KRA-L is not an indicator of how successful children will be in school, but is aimed at determining areas where students may need extra attention so they can get that help as soon as possible, educators said.
Students receive a composite score that ranges from 0 to 29. The state measures scores in three categories, with children scoring from 0-13 needing intense instruction, 14-23 needing targeted instruction and 24-29 set for enriching instruction.
In Middletown, 570 students took the KRA-L last year, and 32 percent of them scored between 0 to 13; 42 percent scored 14 to 23; and 25 percent scored 24 t0 29. Middletown’s average was 17.30, while Ohio’s average was 20.
There was a direct correlation between test scores, whether the student was enrolled in a preschool program and their family’s financial status, according to the data.
Of the kindergarten students, 67 percent attended preschool programs, and their average KRA-L score was 18.3, which falls within the middle composite score. Those who had no preschool experience scored an average of 15.21.
Three years ago, when the test was administered, Middletown students scored the second lowest of the 10 school districts in ButlerCounty, according to the ODE. Middletown’s composite score of 17.1 was only higher than New Miami’s 16.9. Ross Local’s 22.1 was the highest in the county.
Since 2006, Middletown’s composite score has risen slightly from its 16.41 in 2006.
The two poorest performing districts in the county, New Miami and Middletown, also had the highest percent of economically disadvantaged students. In New Miami, 99.4 percent were classified as economically disadvantaged, while 71.3 percent were inMiddletown. Lakota’s 18.9 percent was the lowest.
To try to improve early childhood, Gordon said, the strategies include:
Partnering Butler County Educational Service Center to expand home visitation for at-risk children birth to age 3 and ages 3-5 by providing funds to hire additional home visitors to reduce or eliminate waiting lists;
Partnering with United Way and the Parent Resource Center to create peer-to-peer parent ambassadors for early childhood education to spread the word on the importance of early childhood education and recruit parents for local programs, including expanded parent support classes;
Partnering with 4c for Children to provide incentives to encourage local pre-schools to utilize coaching programs to meet the state’s five-star quality early childhood education accreditation program;
Partnering with schools and the city to provide transportation assistance for families involved in these programs;
Partnering with highly-rated preschools (three stars and above) to provide sliding-scale pre-school scholarship vouchers for low-income families;
Partnering with United Way and all five school districts to continue the foundation’s ready schools kindergarten orientation initiative;
Partnering with local elementary schools on literacy enrichment programs for grades k-2;
Partnering with the Educational Service Center to provide community resource liaison social workers for elementary schools currently without them;
Partner with another agency to provide a staff position to administer a parent awareness campaign on early childhood education through social media, health care providers, the business community, and the faith community while also coordinating these various early childhood programs funded by Ready!
The high school piece has three strategies, all in partnership with the five school districts:
A technology assistance fund to help districts purchase necessary equipment not funded by their budgets;
A testing assistance fund to provide help for students to take fee-based standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT, guidance testing in school, and GED testing for drop-outs;
Professional development for teachers to assist in guidance of students down the correct path, be it college prep, workforce development, or vocational training.
Members of the foundation’s youth council passed out pledge cards to everyone present at Thursday’s kickoff.
Ken Cohen, president of Cohen Recycling, said his company has made its five-year commitment to the campaign. He called the campaign “of prime importance” to the Middletown community.
He encouraged those to pledge $1,000 to $10,000 for each of the five years.
During the MCF annual meeting Thursday, the following questions were asked:
Approximately how more likely are children unprepared for kindergarten to face chronic unemployment as adults than peers who are prepared for school? Answer: 70 percent
Approximately how more likely are children unprepared for kindergarten to be arrested for a violent crime before age 18 than peers who are prepared for school? Answer: 70 percent
What percentage of the brain’s development has occurred by a child’s fifth birthday? Answer: 90 percent
What is the average return on investment in quality early childhood interventions? Answer: 700-1,000 percent
Approximately 24,000 children birth to age 18 live in the five school districts served by the MCF. About how many are economically disadvantaged? Answer: 12,000