At-risk children to get Jumpstart in autumn

The new program will provide students in Title 1 schools with one-on-one tutoring.
Tuesday, August 9, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:08 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2008

A program scheduled to open this fall will get Columbia preschoolers set for school success.

Columbia Public Schools has joined with Jumpstart, a national nonprofit early childhood tutoring program, to expand Title I Preschool services at Blue Ridge, Field and West Boulevard elementary schools.

Through the new program, Jumpstart tutors will work one-on-one with 3- to 5-year-olds on learning games, reading and other literacy activities.

Whereas Head Start provides preschool for children from low-income families, and Title I provides preschool for children at risk for school failure, Jumpstart will provide one-on-one tutoring within Title I for students needing individual attention.

The Jumpstart partnership grew out of the school district’s Early Childhood Initiative, which seeks to better prepare young children for school. Chrissie Bennett, Jumpstart coordinator, said partnering with the school district was necessary for Jumpstart to expand in Columbia.

“In hopes of expanding our services, this was something we knew we needed from the beginning,” Bennett said. “It’s good for us to expand within the community and to have a presence in the public schools.”

Columbia Public Schools supplied the classroom space and start-up costs for the new program. Jumpstart’s tutors and office space are funded through the MU Career Center, MU workstudy and the national volunteer organization AmeriCorps.

Jumpstart gives MU workstudy students the opportunity to work as tutors and mentors in early childhood programs. Although the program is offered to all majors, more than one-third of Jumpstart tutors come from the College of Education and Department of Human Development and Family Studies, said Bennett.

The tutors will work within the existing Title I Preschool programs at each elementary school and use the same curriculum and methods as the school district.

“We’re using the same basic concepts,” Bennett said. “It’s really a natural fit into the day.”

Tutors will go through a five-week training period and begin working with students in the classroom in October. Jumpstart team leaders, who facilitate meetings and oversee tutoring sessions, will attend training next week with other Columbia Public School teachers.

The new program is designed as a pilot and will work differently at each school site. At Blue Ridge, Jumpstart tutors will be integrated into the regular classroom and will work one-on-one with students. At Field, the tutors will be integrated into the regular classroom on Wednesday and will provide a half-day, Jumpstart-only program on Friday. At West Boulevard, students will spend half a day with Title I Preschool and half a day with Jumpstart. Bennett said the program may be replicated at other schools in the future, depending on which model works best.

At each site, seven tutors will work individually with seven children within a classroom of about 15 students. Although the tutors work with specific students, team leader Amanda Bunch said other students benefit from having more adults in the classroom to serve as role models.

“They’re kids, so of course they love any kind of adult interaction,” Bunch said. “They see the tutor as a friend and look forward to seeing them every week.”

Title I Preschool, a federally funded program for children at risk for school failure, has 450 students in 16 classrooms across the school district.

Mary Rook, director of Title I Preschool, said Blue Ridge, Field and West Boulevard were chosen as sites for the Jumpstart partnership because students at those sites have the greatest need for the program.

“It’s going to be a great fit for us,” Rook said. “And it’s going to be a great fit for kids.”

Jumpstart, now in its third year at MU, also works with Nora Stewart Memorial Nursery School, Hinkson Preschool and Fay Street Head Start.

Jumpstart identifies students based on a school success checklist filled out by teachers at the beginning of the school year. The questionnaire assesses developmental skills, like reading and language, and is then used to identify students who would benefit the most from tutoring.

Rook said that although Title I Preschool is not linked to income, socioeconomic status is often closely related to children being at-risk. Although Jumpstart does not keep data on family income, Bennett said many children who participate in the program come from low-income families, many of whom are single-parent or working households.

“Just searching for and finding quality full-day care is difficult,” Bennett said. “If there’s any way that we can provide that for families, that’s great.”

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