Model Classroom at Dodgertown Elementary

The Overview

This project seeks to start one “model” Voluntary 4-Year old Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) classroom at Dodgertown Elementary School.  The classroom will serve 32 children each year: 20 during the school year and 12 during the summer program. The project would be part of the existing School District of Indian River County's (SDIRC) VPK program. Currently the SDIRC has 9 VPK Classrooms that serve 156 students in the school year and 90 during the summer. Each of the SDIRC VPK programs is free.
 
This project is supported by a grant of $35,000 from the John's Island Community Service League to fund the teacher's salary and a $25,000 captial grant from the John's Island Foundation, to open one classroom (Furniture $20K and Curriculum $5K).  An additional $10,000 was contributed from private donations and a grant from the School District Education Foundation Matching Grant Program.
 

The Model Classroom will be used to bridge the community, including private care providers, in the process of advancing education of 4 year olds.  We hope that by providing an enriched environment that utilizes resources from Indian River State College, the Early Learning Coalition and other community partners, we can provide professional development and share best practices for the benefit our the entire community of children who are preparing for Kindergarten.

This project also aligns with the Education Foundation’s efforts to support the Superintendent’s Moonshot Moment Community Literacy Goal.

The Need


Poverty is growing in IRC. Of the 1,500 babies born in Indian River County (IRC) each year, 52% are Medicaid paid deliveries.   62% of children enrolled in elementary schools in the SDIRC receive “Free and Reduced Lunch Services”.  This means that they come from a family who earns $24,000 or less to receive Free Lunch Services or less than $32,000 to receive Reduced Lunch Services.  17% of all IRC children under the age of 5 live at a poverty level. 21.8% of all IRC poverty level individuals are under the age of 18.
 
Dodgertown, where this “model” classroom is planned, is the poorest zip code in IRC.  The “model” VPK classroom will be housed in existing space within Dodgertown Elementary School. The schools’ demographics are:
 
• 85% of all students receive Free and Reduced Lunch Services (this is an increase of more than 20% from the previous year)
• 437 students attend Dodgertown Elementary school (note that enrollment in this school has dropped in the last year as families have moved to magnet schools or out of Dodgertown.)
• 35% are Hispanic, 29% are African American, 32% are White
• 22% are ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages)
• 21% are ESE (Students with disabilities)
• SD IRC currently operates 3 ESE Pre-K classrooms and 1 VPK classroom at Dodgertown Elementary.
 

VPK Capacity in IRC


There are 42 VPK providers in IRC.  75% of all four year olds attend some form of 4-year old VPK (25% attend the SDIRC programs). Their academic outcomes are quantified by the Florida DOE by testing that is done when a child enters Kindergarten.  1,300 children in IRC are reviewed for Kindergarten readiness each year. This information is available to anyone on https://vpk.fldoe.org/InfoPages/ParentInfo.aspx
 

There is a wait-list for SD IRC VPK Classes:
 
The waitlist at Dodgertown for 4-year old VPK is 20.  In fact there is a waiting list at each of the 9 SDIRC classroom locations.  The present wait list totals 156 children – this is equal to the number that is currently served by the school district.  This represents a need to open at least 9 classrooms (20 children per room).  We know that 76% of all children on these wait lists come from poverty level homes and that most likely 50% of them are not in any Pre-K classrooms at all.  The remaining 50% are most likely in low performing programs.
 
The SDIRC Runs 9 Successful Classrooms with Better Outcomes:

• The SDIRC average readiness rate was 91% for children that attended the school year program and 85% for those that attended the summer program (based on a maximum score of 100% and a minimum score of 70%).
• This compares to a state average of 68% and a IRC average of 66%.
 
SDIRC Does it Better Because it Utilizes Best Practices:

• Certified 4-year College Educated Teachers
• Home visits by Teachers – considered cutting edge in low income areas.
• 6 hours a day of classroom instruction (more time on task) and access to before/after school care for children of working parents.
• Being housed within a larger school gives students access to:
o Library, art room, music classes and physical education.
o Additional student services: Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, School Psychologist, and additional student services (vision and health screening).
 
 

Why?


Why VPK is Important?  What the research says?
 
• The human mind establishes it’s wiring very early and the greatest brain development occurs from birth to age 4.
• There is a robust body of evidence and research that demonstrates that HIGH QUALITY early learning programs help children arrive at Kindergarten ready to learn.
• Economically disadvantaged children who have access to high quality pre-school programs are more likely to improve their cognitive, social, emotional, and language development.
• Empirical studies estimate that the ROI in VPK classrooms is 16% - making it one of the most cost efficient and effective solutions to helping children out of poverty.
• 40% of the workforce will come from the lowest performing economic group - the prosperity of our community hinges on our ability to address this issue.
 
Why a “model” classroom?
 
The classrooms that were originally built at Dodgertown Elementary were built with two way mirrors so that children can be observed without being distracted. This is unique and ideal. Visiting teachers can see, from two way glass, the student success resulting from rich literacy environments, exemplary teaching, and high expectations for students.  Model classrooms give insight in to the best teaching strategies and classroom learning environments for teachers of children who begin school with little early literacy experience.  The experience of seeing best instructional practices in action in a real classroom elevates teachers’ expectations for their students and for themselves.  Teachers leave motivated to reflect on their own teaching and begin implementing best practices they’ve observed.
 
Why the Education Foundation of Indian River County (EF-IRC)?
 
• The EF-IRC is a vehicle to help the SDIRC to leverage local support to help start educational programs in Indian River County.
• The EF-IRC is the  fundraising arm of the public school system.
• Through grant and fund development projects the EF-IRC helps the SDIRC  to get local stakeholders involved in supporting local education.  The SDIRC then takes over the oversight with the involvement of the EF-IRC board members.
• Being started up by EF-IRC gives access to matching funds of $15,000 through the Florida Legislative Matching Grant Program that it would not get otherwise.
 

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