Young students in the Bethel, Eugene, Springfield, South Lane and Creswell school districts will attend free twice-weekly sessions starting this week to improve their early literacy and social skills with the hope that they will be more likely to succeed in school.
“This gives students a chance to get their very best start,” said Katherine Pears, a senior scientist at the Learning Center and principal investigator for the KITS program.
Research shows that how children perform in kindergarten can predict how far they will go in their education, Pears said. Some children going into the program may not have attended preschool and may already be behind some of their peers.
So far, Oregon Social Learning Center’s studies on KITS have found that students in foster care and students with developmental disabilities who participated in the program demonstrated immediate improvements in early literacy and their ability to control themselves, such as sitting still and paying attention, Pears said.
The studies have also found that parents were more engaged in their child’s learning and schoolwork after taking the parenting classes.
Students will learn about letters and sounds through projects. They’ll also learn how to make friends and cooperate.
The program is free to parents and is funded by a federal grant in the Bethel and Springfield school districts. In the Eugene, South Lane and Creswell districts, the program is funded by a grant from United Way of Lane County’s Early Learning Alliance, Pears said.
Once children start kindergarten, they will attend the KITS classes for an additional eight weeks. Parenting classes will also continue during the school year every other week.
Spots are still available for students enrolled at Springfield’s Riverbend Elementary School; Eugene’s César Chávez and McCornack elementary schools; and Bethel’s Fairfield, Malabon, Danebo, Prairie Mountain, Meadow View, Irving and Clear Lake elementary schools.
Students in the Springfield and Bethel programs will be part of a Learning Center study to see how students in the KITS program compare with their peers who did not attend the program.
Officials in the Bethel district are training employees there to eventually be able to run the program themselves, which Pears said is the ultimate goal.
In Springfield, Riverbend Elementary School Principal Dave Hulbert said he hopes parents acquire a sense of urgency about helping their children succeed early on.
Hulbert cited research that has found that students who read at grade level by third grade are far more likely to graduate from high school than students who struggle to read.
“When we get these kids coming in behind, then we’re playing catch-up and that takes a lot more resources and more effort,” Hulbert said.
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KIDS IN TRANSITION TO SCHOOL (KITS)
To learn more or sign up: Call Deena Scheidt at Oregon Social Learning Center, 541-485-2711
Bethel: Spaces available at all Bethel KITS programs (Fairfield, Malabon, Danebo, Prairie Mountain, Meadow View, Irving and Clear Lake enrollment areas)
Eugene: Spaces available for César Chávez and McCornack elementary school students
Springfield: Spaces available for Riverbend elementary students