|Perritt Pre-K students play a game of ring toss. Pre-K programs such as APS's are proven at building solid foundations during early childhood for long term learning.|
Earlier this year, Arkadelphia Public Schools received a level 3 certification, the highest rating available from the Better Beginnings program for Arkansas, for their Pre-Kindergarten program at Perritt Primary. The Early Childhood program at Perritt is under the direction of Dr. Patricia Wright, Director of Special Programs and Schools of the 21st Century.
Better Beginnings provides a quality rating system for Arkansas preschool centers. The rating system allows parents to understand the value of quality education and childcare centers as well as to help them to identify these centers in their area. The Better Beginnings program also provides resources to child care providers to help them improve their programs at every level.
The Better Beginnings program is a three-star rating system. One-star being the lowest level and the entry position for most centers applying for certification and three-stars being the highest rating that can be achieved. According to Wright, “The program looks at several different components: The learning environment, assessing the classrooms and the health plans in place for every child, including immunization records.”
The Pre-K program that started in 1999 at Perritt has developed over the years. The program initially held three-year-olds and four-year-olds, but after some evaluation, the three-year-olds have been moved to the Early Childhood Center in the Industrial Park, with plans for their own facility in the near future. The Early Childhood Center is a part of APS and provides for children from six-weeks up to four-years-old. The Pre-K program at Perritt now provides for four-year-olds only.
These programs are vital to APS because they provide “a pipeline from birth all the way through high school,” Wright said. The goal of the Pre-K program is to have students successfully complete the Kindergarten Ready Checklist (KRS), which will prove that the students have the necessary skills to be successful in a kindergarten classroom. The Pre-K program prepares students for the environment and social skills of working with other children as well as the weekly routine of elementary school: Eating in the cafeteria, going to music, art and P.E. After completing the Pre-K program, students are completely integrated into the school.
“The students have access to SMART Boards, SMART tables and iPods with individual headsets in their classrooms, in addition to having the ability to spend time in the computer lab,” according to Wright. The students are being exposed to technology, much like the students in the rest of the district. They also have a set curriculum that they follow called “Big Day for Pre-K,” which is a research-based curriculum with a parental involvement component. Wright shared that the program is a “comprehensive early learning program, organized into eight engaging and child-friendly themes.”
The program focuses on the importance of social involvement and integrates that component into their curriculum of sentence structure, listening skills and other lesson plans.
The Pre-K program is not required for students prior to kindergarten, but is seen as a helpful tool to integrate them into the school system. The evolution of APS’s Early Childhood Services is an “ongoing process and is constantly being evaluated for what is working, and ultimately what is in the best interest of the children,” Wright said.
By Nicole McPhate,
for the APS Communications Department
Learn more about Better Beginnings here: www.arbetterbeginnings.com