The “consensus” of a study group at Center Elementary School (CES) has recommended that be eliminated, partly because its findings indicated that students that are retained in such classes "rarely” close the achievement gap with students in their grade.
CES Principal Carrie Kilian told the Board of Education (BOE) at its April 27 meeting that the study group was formed after the T1 program, which has been in place for decades, was suspended for the current academic year since only four students had enrolled for the instruction.
T1 is an extra-year program for students that have been deemed by the kindergarten teacher to not quite be ready for first grade.
Kilian said the kindergarten teachers usually made recommendations about placing students in the T1 class about halfway through the academic year.
The principal, who is in her second year at CES, told the school board that information indicated that through the years, on average, about 30 students were recommended annually for the T1 instruction , but that figure declined to 20 students for the current academic year.
Kilian said that for a variety of reasons, only four parents indicated that they planned to enroll their child in the program.
Since there was insufficient enrollment for a T1 class this year, she said the study was organized to analyze the T1 program and a consultant, Amy Sevell-Nelson, helped facilitate three meetings, which were held in November, January and March.
Kilian said research indicated that Brookfield is the only district in its District Reference Group (DRG) that has a T1 program.
The DRGs, which are assigned by the state Board of Education, consist of about 20 school districts that have similar demographics. The DRGs are used, for example, to compare results on state standardized exams.
Kilian said parents have the choice of retaining their child in kindergarten, enrolling them in the T1 program or having them promoted to first grade.
The executive summary of the 11-member study group’s report stated that steps were taken to foster the development of the students enrolled in the T1 program.
“To ensure that no one fell through the cracks, the parents and staff crafted agreements whereby both the classroom teachers and the school psychologist would monitor the students closely, specifically related to reading and social-emotional development,” according to the report.
“If concerns arose, appropriate support strategies would be put into place,” the study group wrote.
The executive summary of the study group’s report stated that, “Children who are redshirted or attend extra-year programs may have a slight, temporary academic advantage until third grade, at which point it is completely erased. Initial positive results in performance are not lasting.”
“Children who are retained rarely close the gap with their grade-mates,” the study group added.
Kilian said the “consensus” of the study group was to eliminate the program.
In response to a question from school board Vice Chairman Rob Gianazza, she said she would provide the board with more detailed data on the progression of the T1 program through the years.
School board Chairman Ray DiStephan commended Kilian and the other study group members for their report.
“It is a lot of really great, hard work,” he said.
The report recommended that the school district consider offering universal pre-kindergarten “to give all students a strong start to kindergarten success.”
“This might mitigate the need for T1 or full-day kindergarten,” the report stated.
The study group also recommended that the district “modify kindergarten screening to provide additional and relevant information — so that kindergarten teachers are able to differentiate instruction at the start of the school year.”
It also wrote that the school district should “acquire information” on what the other districts in Brookfield’s DRG are doing to assist students that might encounter obstacles in the transition to first grade.
“With greater disparity of student performance, teachers will require additional support staff within classrooms in order to provide appropriate differentiation of instruction,” the report recommended in regards to some of the issues that might arise if the T1 program is not reinstituted.
The study group also wrote that the district should “develop a Core Behavior and Social Skills Curriculum for CES, ready for implementation in school year 2011-2012.”