McMinnville School District earns national recognition
Monday, March 29, 2021
The McMinnville School District Ready! For Kindergarten teaches families strategies to guide their young children’s learning in pre-literacy, pre-math and social and emotional skills. (2017 photo courtesy of Laurie Fry, McMinnville School District)
For a decade, the McMinnville School District has been acting on the belief that getting children prepared for kindergarten sets them on a path to academic success. It’s paying off.
The district’s Ready! For Kindergarten program teaches parents how to engage their youngsters in learning. The children of participating families do better on early reading and math assessments than their district peers and statewide averages, according to district data.
The program’s success across demographic lines has earned it one of four first-place 2021 Magna Awards in the 5,000-20,000 enrollment category. The Magna Awards, sponsored by the National School Boards Association magazine American School Board Journal, honor districts for advancing equity and breaking down barriers for underserved students.
Ready! For Kindergarten, a national program, empowers parents as their children’s first and most important teachers.
McMinnville’s program offers three sessions a year for five development levels in Spanish and English for parents of children from birth to age 5. This school year has all been on Zoom, but in the past, the district offered free baby-sitting and a meal while parents learned how to nurture their child’s early learning skills through play and interaction.
“Even if you are a parent who has been a parent for a while, things change and you can glean something new,” said Mary Dressel, McMinnville’s program coordinator.
Parents receive high-quality, developmentally appropriate games, toys and books to help their children progress, invaluable assistance for many families in the community southwest of Portland. Two-thirds of McMinnville’s students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches.
The materials cost more than $100 per family, but the district funds the program through a grant that allows it to offer it to parents of any children living within the district’s boundaries. The program serves about 100 families a year.
Students whose parents participated in the program significantly outperformed state assessment averages in language arts, math and science, according to Jill Long, grant writer and administrator.
Students involved with the program met readying and math standards upon entering kindergarten at a 24% higher rate than children who did not and the more sessions a parent attended, the higher the student’s assessment, Long said.
The benefits hold for students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds or who have English as a second language, Long said. More than a quarter of the district’s students have been or are English learners.
Dressel said families who have gone through the program have students who perform better than their peers socially as well.
The district provides facilities and some staffing. High school students help with the child care, and parents who have been through the program volunteer to be facilitators. Local businesses have also donated, and the program receives support from Linfield University.
“We try to make it as much community as possible,” Dressel said.