Through a consulting project, I was fortunate to experience the Fullerton School District’s preschool operation. For anyone who’s been in a quality preschool and thought “How do we get more of these?” The Fullerton (Ca) School District, which operates 10 preschool classrooms at 9 schools, serving approximately 500 children, is a source of both hope and good practices.
These dozen blog posts are offered as a “virtual tour & discussion” – intended to offer educators a look at Fullerton’s program, with narration on its operation and development from Marilee Cosgrove, The Director of Fullerton’s Child Development Services Department. In her 11 years on the job, Marilee has integrated a Reggio Emilia-inspired approach with the State of California’s guidelines and other best practices to deliver an extraordinary program of student-building – all within the context (both constraints and opportunities) of a diverse Southern California public school district. The district’s demographics vary widely: most of their schools are over 75% English Learners, with 3 of the 9 over 95%. Similarly, the majority of students are FRPL (free or reduced price lunch) signifying parental income below 185% of the federal poverty level.
The rigorous focus on developmentally-appropriate Social, Emotional and Cognitive growth “gets the kids self-aware, excited about learning, and prepared for life – as well as ‘ready’ for kindergarten,” says Cosgrove. The district’s Desired Results Developmental Provide (DRDP15) measures, follow-up tracking of students, feedback from subsequent teachers, and response from early education peers all speak to a robust program – inside a “non-wealthy” public school district.
The following posts will talk about the mechanics and origins of the Fullerton program; how the program interacts with teachers, budgets and the administration; the actual differences in the classroom; and how “None of this would be possible without Santa Monica.”