D. D. Kirkland School features innovation, partnerships


At the invitation of an early education expert with the Potts Family Foundation, I attended the Aug. 14 D.D. Kirkland Early Childhood Center Screening Day and Meet the Teacher event. I should add that this retired high school teacher did not grasp the importance of high-quality pre-K until I was schooled by Ray Potts (as well as John Rex) during MAPS for Kids. Back then, there were still some doubts as to the benefits of pre-K and full-service community schools like D.D. Kirkland.

I should also say that that there is some recent push back against pre-K for all, contending that only high-quality programs have produced “transformative change.” Building early education and wraparound services is not easy. Experts worry that pre-K could be used to introduce too much academic instruction, too fast, in an effort to boost test scores. When the fundamental principles advocated by cognitive scientists are respected, however, pre-K and community schools are very effective.

Proactive screening gives faculty head start

The faculty at Kirkland understand that they have taken on a task that is more complex than merely teaching pre-Kindergarten and elementary school classes. Inspired by the film Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope, they have committed to offering the best possible holistic and loving experiences for Kirkland’s children. After reading Susan Craig’s The Role Trauma-Sensitive Schools Play in Building Resilience, the faculty set out to build “the greatest school on earth.”

In one of many efforts to become “proactive” in anticipating and serving children’s needs, the Screening Day lets teachers know their kids before the first day of class, allowing an early start in preparing for meeting all of their intellectual and socio-emotional needs.

Experience had shown the Kirkland staff that responding to children’s problems after the fact had been ineffective. In complicated cases, it might take half a year to diagnose complex conditions and work out coordinated solutions. The screening, along with the day’s introductions, gives staff a head start in developing personalized services for each child.


Patrice Althouse — who has been dubbed “the AP pre-K teacher” – explained how they help nurture a sense of resilience in students: When children experience early successes, she said, they won’t learn to believe, “I can’t.” When adults are poised to quickly assist children who would otherwise struggle, the kids don’t develop a self-defeating attitude. And to make sure that “naughties” don’t head down the wrong path, the staff jump in to “mom up” with the student.

To read the rest of this article by John Thompson on NonDoc, please click here

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