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Tiger Prep Academy

The intent of this email is to provide information regarding Tiger Prep Academy and describe our goals for the program.  This concept is new to many people, so educating everyone will help share accurate information. 

The Tiger Prep Academy idea actually was triggered a few years ago when we realized many of our kindergarten children were lacking essential, basic behavioral, social, and academic skills necessary to be successful in an educational setting.  Although we felt confident in our perceptions, please remember not everyone has an early childhood education background.  However, our thoughts were validated when we realized many of our early childhood students were outperforming kindergarten children in various testing scenarios.  

To confirm or invalidate our opinions, Mrs. Frazier and the kindergarten teachers (Brittiany Nixon led the charge) developed a survey or list of basic skills they believed a child entering kindergarten should possess.  The teachers assessed their present children using the survey.  Please recognize many parts of the assessment were judgmental as we asked the teachers to think about their children when they started kindergarten.  Other assessment aspects were driven by the actual children’s responses on ESGI/iReady.  I attached the survey to this email, including the percentage of children successfully completing the specific skills.

The results were somewhat surprising and disturbing, but probably a fairly accurate assessment.  Many children do not have the skills needed to successfully enter school and continue learning at the pace we expect and require.  The big question we must answer is, “Can we catch them up?” 

As with all educators, we were challenged to determine why the skills are lacking and how we can provide additional support to our kindergarten teachers.  Is the issue related to ineffective kindergarten instruction?  Absolutely not.  I am extremely confident our kindergarten teachers provide excellent academic, behavioral, and social instruction.  Is it related to inadequate early childhood instruction and interventions?  Again, absolutely not. I already mentioned many early childhood children were outperforming kindergarteners.  I believe our ECSE and PAT staffs provide exemplary support to our parents and children.

Parental support, socio-economic status, and real-life experiences are all factors potentially harming or accelerating education for all kids, but especially our youngest children.  After many discussions and researching various programs, our solution to provide the most assistance to our children and staff is additional time.  Children need more time in educational settings, being instructed by professional educators.  Please understand I am not defaming our local preschools, as they do a great job.  Unfortunately, available spots for kindergarten-aged children in our local preschools are limited and difficult to receive; thus, many kindergarten-aged children need additional educational options and opportunities beyond preschool.  This is where Tiger Prep Academy comes in.

Tiger Prep Academy might be called Transitional or Constructive Kindergarten in other schools.  Some might consider the program a red-shirt year, as the children are kindergarten eligible age.  Enrollment in the class is based on many factors related to social, behavioral, and academic skills.  The enrollment criteria is driven by various testing options, parental opinions, and teacher observations during home visits and orientations.  Enrolling a child in the class is a collaborative effort between the parent and educators.  We will not enroll a child in the class without parental permission. 

Children in Tiger Prep Academy are considered Carthage students just like other children enrolled in kindergarten.  The difference is these children will be taught a modified kindergarten curriculum more specifically directed toward the children’s individual needs.  Tiger Prep Academy children WILL NOT advance to first grade the following year.  These children will be enrolled in a regular kindergarten class the school year after completing Tiger Prep Academy.  The children in this class will receive additional time and support to master the essential skills needed before entering first grade.

We believe Tiger Prep Academy will greatly increase the opportunities for children to be successful in kindergarten and every grade leading up to post-graduation.  Additionally, we firmly believe the children in the regular kindergarten will benefit because teachers could potentially spend less time assisting the children with higher needs and more time advancing other children in more rigorous instruction.  We do not know how many parents will request enrollment; thus, we do not know how many classes and locations, yet.

This email is long enough so I will not address every aspect of the program.  Rest assured we firmly believe Tiger Prep Academy is good for children and will help children succeed.  Now, adults have the responsibility to make it happen . . . and we will.

Thanks.

Mark

GO BIG BLUE!

Dr. Mark Baker
Superintendent
Carthage R-9 School District
417-359-7000