“These children have my last name. If there is something my daughters should have—all children should have it.”-Co-founder and Board President of the Hilltop Preschool
While on a visit to Columbus, Ohio, Center Director Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell stopped in the Hilltop Preschool, a non-profit organization located in Hilltop Lutheran Church that offers free preschool to residents of the Columbus west side area. It just happened to be picture day, and the children were dressing up in little graduation caps and gowns in anticipation of their upcoming graduation!
The preschool is funded through non-profit donations and thrives on several partnerships, including one with The Ohio State University (OSU) Speech-Language Clinic. This is a successful example of how institutions of higher education can effectively partner with local schools to create positive change.
All of the children attending the school come from families who are below 125% of the poverty level and face daunting realities:
- 61% of the children have been identified with developmental delays;
- 40% live with a parent with a known substance abuse problem;
- 27% have a parent who has been incarcerated;
- 20% are learning English as a second language.
In October of 2014, 67% of the children were assessed as falling “below average” on the National Center for Learning Disabilities’ GET READY TO READ! screening tool. Something had to be done to address such stark realities.
Staff at the Hilltop Preschool began to communicate with the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at the Ohio State University to develop a unique partnership aimed at raising students’ literacy-based skills in the classroom through workshops with students, teachers, and staff. For the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, this collaboration presented an opportunity for staff to go into the community and set the bar high as the first clinic to be on-site leading a pre-K early literacy intervention program. For the Hilltop Preschool students, the new partnership paved the way for them to participate in lessons specifically designed to strengthen their early foundations in language and literacy by building skills in four key areas: vocabulary, narrative, phonological awareness, and print knowledge. Lesson plans for the intervention sessions had students gathered in reading groups and focused on topics ranging from the blending of sounds and rhyming, to comprehension, sequencing, and vocabulary. As a result of this initiative, OSU affiliates tripled student contact hours.
At the conclusion of the 11-week intervention program, the preschoolers were assessed to determine if their earlier literacy scores had changed. 89% of the students demonstrated higher literacy scores and 67% achieved “average” or “above average” on the GET READY TO READ! screening tool! Not only did the students see positive differences, but the teachers also learned modeling techniques for literacy concepts and the parents benefited by gaining skills to support their young readers through family events, take-home sheets, and parent-teacher conferences. Invigorated by this success and the community need, OSU continues this partnership today and the Speech-Language-Hearing-Clinic is now building a library at the school to continue to advance literacy skills.
Further background information and source: http://artsandsciences.osu.edu/news/literacy-intervention-and-hilltop-preschool