It may be summer break for most students in the Omaha metro. But Monday marks the start of summer school for Omaha Public Schools, and Jump Start for those who will be entering kindergarten this fall.
Fewer kindergartners are expected in classrooms across the state this coming year, due to the change in state law that requires children be five by July 31st to enter school. However, the number of students enrolled in O.P.S. Jump Start, a thousand, is an increase over last year. Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Learning, Dr. ReNae Kehrberg, attributes that to Learning Community funding.
"Kindergarten jump start is an excellent opportunity for our littlest learners to get an advantage at the beginning of the summer for the next school year," said Dr. Kehrberg. Among the many benefits she said are gaining socialization and listening skills.
Research, she said, shows early education strongly impacts children who take part and their academic success down the road. "Kindergarten jump start doesn't simply close the academic achievement gap. Early childhood programs prevent the academic achievement gap."
The biggest thing parents can make at home to make a difference, from an early age, she said, is reading. "If every parent could read, read, read to their child extensively, that probably has the biggest ability to vault a child forward because your reading skills are the foundation for everything else you do in school. "
Mother of four, Kim Grosdidier, couldn't agree more. Twin daughters Josie and Elise just wrapped up their kindergarten year. Their youngest, Ava, has one more year of preschool to go before she gets to school.
"Reading helps with every subject, math, social studies, science," Grosdidier said. "I think it's the base for everything."
She also uses flash cards to teach letters and numbers to little Ava, noting all children are different and require different approaches to learning. "The other girls like to color a lot more than her and write," she said of Ava. "With her, we're starting slowly."
Progress here in Nebraska on writing achievement, Dr. Kehrberg said, may appear to be slow. Recent assessment results showed only 63-percent of eighth graders and 62-percent of 11th graders met or surpassed the standards.
However, as the State Department of Education pointed out, this was the first time a new type of test was used. It's designed to be closer to the type of writing students would need to do in college or for work.
The previous tests, used for the past decade which current high schoolers have been geared toward, explained Dr. Kehrberg, "where you would work on a piece, revise it and then come back and have a final edit. Now, it's on demand, much like texting. You get a text, you respond to it and you're done."
Organized and computer-driven, it's changing teaching methods. Fourth graders, scheduled to take the test next year, are expected to do much better.