Pre-K preparedness project paying dividends in Dothan

TROY is helping Dothan-area child care centers prepare children for kindergarten.

TROY is helping Dothan-area child care centers prepare children for kindergarten.

A Troy University program is helping two Dothan child care centers better prepare children for kindergarten.

Project Pre-K to K Transition, funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, began last fall and has already made a difference at Eastside Childcare Learning Center and Pal-A-Roos Daycare, the two child care centers selected for the first phase of the project.

“According to our midpoint evaluations and data, the progress is very exciting,” said Lecturer Pam Wimbish, co-director of the project.

As part of the project, the University hired part-time certified teachers to work at the child care centers and train assistant teachers provided by the centers.

After the first year of the three-year project ends, the certified teachers will leave Pal-A-Roos and Eastside, but the assistants will be prepared with the skills necessary to take over.

Thus far, the information gathered by the teachers has been promising.

“We have looked at what the teacher has been collecting and these children are making amazing progress,” said Dr. Cynthia Hicks, project co-director. “They’re right on target where they need to be in preparing for kindergarten.”

Pal-A-Roos Owner/Director Kimberly Sikes said the project has been enlightening and has improved the children’s knowledge and understanding.

“So far everything’s been going very smoothly,” Sikes said. “It’s been a wonderful partnership. I’m learning a lot of new and exciting things that I didn’t know before. I think having a certified teacher works well because they have a better understanding of the kids and how their minds learn and develop.”

Hicks said research proved the need for the program.

“In Alabama we rank very low in preparing our children for school. The area we’re in has a very high poverty rate,” she said. “We’re trying to go into those high-need areas where children may not be receiving the support that they need to prepare them for school experiences. All the research we have indicates if they have that firm foundation, they will be successful. We’re trying to lay that foundation, providing all of this that the Kellogg Foundation is helping us financially to support.”

That support includes books, supplies and technology to help the children learn.

Once the first year ends, the child care centers’ teachers will be better trained, and TROY is helping the owners access funding opportunities such as Alabama’s First Class Pre-K Program.

“We don’t want to leave them without that continued support,” Hicks said. “Hopefully, with all of this, others are opening their eyes to what they need to be doing in their centers. We are offering support in any way we can.”

Next year, the project will move into two other Dothan area child care centers, though those facilities haven’t been determined yet.

Sikes encourages other pre-schools to participate if given the opportunity.

“I highly recommend it,” she said. “I think it’s an excellent program. I’m hoping to take what they’ve done and continue it next year and maybe add some more things to it. We’re looking to add a Spanish teacher and a music teacher to further the learning opportunities for my children.”