The leadership at Morris Early Childhood Center has seen some major changes this year following their accomplishment as State Title 1 Distinguished Honoree from the Delaware Department of Education. This year has seen the start of full day Kindergarten and the extension of prekindergarten for children in need of additional socialization and instructional tutoring.
With a focus of individual educational programs, professional learning community time and positive behavior reinforcement, Principal Elizabeth Conaway and her staff are preparing students for their journey through the Milford School District.
“Most people think, how hard can it be to teach Kindergarten, first and second grade,” commented Mrs. Conaway. “but their really is a challenge when you are dealing with the development of these young children. We must make sure that each child is being reached.”
There are more than 700 children in the Greater Milford Area that attend Morris Early Childhood Center, with each student coming from a different background. At this age many children are experiencing their first interaction with others besides family members. Some children are prepared for their introduction to academics and socialization while some have not received the proper tools for this big change.
“There is a spectrum of needs for each child,” commented Mrs. Conaway. “Some children come to school with the knowledge of how to read and interact with others and there are some that do not know what a letter is.”
To help with this unique situation Morris Early Childhood Center has implemented the individual education plan (IEP) for children at the earliest age possible. Children who need help with learning or social skills can be enrolled in an extended prekindergarten curriculum. In this program each individual child receives the related services they need for success. At the level of kindergarten and above the focus involves math and writing. Students who are targeted to have difficulties learning these skills are enrolled in additional courses, that last 30 minutes, to ensure that they continue at the level their fellow classmates are.
“At this level we need to be aware of early intervention,” commented Mrs. Conaway. “Statistics show that if a students is not reading at a second grade level by second grade they are unlikely to ever reach [their performance level].” Illustrating the importance of early intervention Mrs. Conaway referenced a statistic stating that the State of Indiana uses its second grade performance levels as a basis for its prison projections to determine future incarceration rates.
Before students can graduate to the Mispillion or Lulu Ross Elementary Schools the expectation is that they should be able to read. To establish a schoolwide effort to ensure the success of each child teachers have begun to use Professional Learning Community (PLC) time. During PLC time teachers collaborate about student performance, assessment measures and the curriculum. This allows students to receive more consistent learning in each classroom and throughout each grade level.
At such an early age of development it is just as important to teach students socialization skills as it is academic learning. Every classroom participates in the Positive Behavior Support program (PBS) which encourages students to learn their social ABC’s: A stands for act safely, B stands for be a friend and C stands for choose a manner. When students demonstrate positive behavior they receive tickets that can be used to “purchase” goodies at the PBS store.
“Usually most of the attention is given to the kids who have discipline problems,” commented Mrs. Conaway. “ At Morris we put a lot of attention on working with kids on both ends of the spectrum.”
In her second year as principal of Morris Early Childhood Center Elizabeth Conaway is taking a proactive approach to meeting the academic and social needs of her students with early intervention. She has a passion for her work and an excitement for helping these young children gain the development needed for success. Mrs. Conaway understands that the young age is critical to their future and who they will ultimately become.