Education Champions: CLIPP provides kindergarten readinessWritten by Kristen Criswell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: Toledo Free Press, United Way of Greater Toledo and 13abc’s “Bridges” with Doni Miller are profiling 12 education initiative programs in Northwest Ohio. This is the third story in the series. All Education Champions coverage may be found here.
CLIPP, Collaborative Learning and Instructional Pre-school Project, provides free kindergarten readiness to low-income families in Toledo.
The program started in 2002 and is a collaboration between Head Start and Toledo Public Schools (TPS).
“The premise for this is No. 1, getting children ready for kindergarten,” said Sue Culver, assistant director of the program and former TPS principal. “The other thing is to keep them and retain them in Toledo Public Schools. Show them so they are used to the school, they know the principal and the teachers … and that will hopefully retain them in TPS.”
CLIPP started after Arlene Tucker, director of the program and then-principal at Franklin Elementary School, noticed her kindergartners were starting school between a 3½- and 4-year-old ability. Tucker approached the school board about having 4-year-olds come in three days a week for pre-kindergarten classes and the board asked her to expand the idea to outside her school as well, she said.
The first year the program served roughly 60 kids at Franklin and Nathan Hale Elementary School. CLIPP now serves 275 to 300 students in 10 classes at seven different locations, Tucker said.
For children to qualify for CLIPP they must be 4 years old by Sept. 30 of that current school year and their families must meet Head Start’s income eligibility, at or below 100 percent of the poverty level.
When students enter CLIPP they are pretested to see what they already know, Culver said. The data is then used to help the teachers instruct.
“We show the teachers how to teach using the data,” Culver said. “If you know Johnny is doing poorly in beginning sounds, you need to do that with him at the center. If Suzy knows her sounds, you need to take Suzy and move her up the scaffolding.”
CLIPP teachers come from Head Start and many of them have two-year associate degrees, Tucker said. As a result, the curriculum is designed for any teacher — experienced or new to the profession — to teach, she said.
“We have a guided plan throughout the day and the teacher’s job is to get in the material but in a developmental way,” Tucker said. “We don’t want to drill and kill. It’s still appropriate for 4-year-olds and is fun.”
Results from the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment-Literacy (KRA-L) test given to all incoming kindergartners, shows CLIPP students are entering prepared for school.
Tucker gathers and aggregates KRA-L data from the entire system and breaks it down by school, classroom and child, she said. The data is given to the kindergarten teachers so they know what they need to focus on with their students.
The information is also used to critique CLIPP and compare its students to all incoming kindergartners, Tucker said.
In the 2009-2010 school year, the average KRA-L score for TPS was 17.25, out of 29 possible points, and the average CLIPP student’s score was 17.20. It’s the first time the district average has scored higher than CLIPP students, Tucker said.
She noted, however, that the district-wide average includes all students, while CLIPP averages include only those at or below 100 percent of the poverty level. Statistically, children from poverty don’t score as high, Tucker said.
When comparing CLIPP’s averages with TPS schools that have a 90 percent or higher rate of free and reduced lunches, CLIPP students scored much higher. Schools with a high percentage of free and reduced lunches scored an average of 15.23 on the KRA-L.
“What we’ve done is eliminated the poverty factor,” Tucker said. “Our kids have kept with other TPS kids regardless of where they came from.”
Head Start provides teachers and materials for CLIPP’s curriculum, while TPS selects the curriculum and provides administrators and overhead such as space and janitorial services.
Culver said she and Tucker meet regularly with Head Start and TPS about the program, so the two are constantly “bouncing balls in the air” to get the job done.
Tucker and Culver negotiate with six different unions for CLIPP, three each from TPS and Head Start, but the pair doesn’t find it to be a problem.
“It’s a nice little juggling act. We never had a problem doing that when we were principals. It’s a dance you learn, but it’s not something that’s a roadblock,” she said. “I’ve found everyone very willing to compromise as long as the purpose is the right thing; this is for the kids it’s not anything for a personal gain.”
CLIPP has an operating budget of $100,000 annually, which mostly covers administrative costs and minimal supplies, Culver said. Funding for the program comes from three separate entities; $25,000 from Head Start, $25,000 from TPS and $50,000 from Title I.
“We try to keep it on a shoestring because money is an issue,” Tucker said. “We don’t have money, but that’s not a reason not to do something. So we look at how can we use money that is already being spent and make it work. Head Start is in existence, and [TPS] is in existence, we just share resources.”
Tucker and Culver would like to see CLIPP implemented in every TPS elementary school, free to every student, they said. The biggest roadblock to reaching more children and providing more children with kindergarten readiness is funding and space, they said.
Currently CLIPP isn’t in all the TPS elementary schools because there is no space in the schools for a CLIPP classroom.
“We have some empty classrooms, but as the school system tries to cut back on their buildings and cut teachers, we end up getting crunched,” Tucker said. “If you close a building, those kids are going to go into the empty rooms. If we’re in one of them, we get bumped out. Toledo Public Schools’ needs supersede our needs, even though we’re Toledo Public, because [CLIPP is] not a mandated program.”
Tucker and Culver would also like some form of free kindergarten readiness programs implemented statewide in every public school, to prepare younger children for K-12 education and to prevent them from experiencing culture shock. The pair has been working with different organizations and government leaders with the hope of providing kindergarten readiness for more students.
Studies have shown that early childhood education pays off by cutting dropout, juvenile delinquency and prison rates, Tucker said.
“You don’t build a house without a foundation and this is a foundation for children as a stepping stone to get to a higher level,” Culver said.
With Head Starts throughout the state, Tucker and Culver don’t see why that organization and other school districts in Ohio couldn’t at least collaborate.
“People look at early childhood as if it isn’t necessary, but kindergarten curriculum is very aggressive. It’s really what use to be first grade,” Tucker said. “There are some that say we should change kindergarten, but until that happens we can’t ignore it. Otherwise we’re just setting them up for failure. It is what it is, let’s get the kids ready for it.”