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District's new approach to kindergarten pays off

By Nadine Wimmer | Posted - Jun. 7, 2010 at 11:00 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Some schools in the Salt Lake City School District have totally revamped their approach to kindergarten, and the results have been nothing short of remarkable.

When KSL News visited Mountain View Elementary early in the school year, the principal's tracking board showed only a handful of students reading at grade level. By end of the year, all but two students are right on target.

"It's hard to ignore how well it's done," says Principal John Erlacher.

"These results are remarkable, considering we had 20 or 25 kids that came to Mountain View that didn't even know one letter," says Jo Ellen Shaeffer, director of assessment and evaluation at the Salt Lake District.

How did they do it? State funding for full-day kindergarten helped make up the early gap for these low-income kids.

But that's not all. Teachers closely tracked data and made weekly changes in teaching strategies. They also offered parents punch cards with gift certificates as incentives if they would attend parent teacher conferences.

Their formula has prepared kids for first grade and beyond.

"The earlier that you can make a change in a kid's life, in terms of their literacy skills, the more successful they are going to be later on," Erlacher says.

In fact kids did so well with reading, their principal rewarded them by shaving his head.

E-mail: dwimmer@ksl.com

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Nadine Wimmer

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