Over 300 children are currently enrolled in "Step Up to Kindergarten" – a summer intensive meant to give the district's youngest students a jumpstart on their first full year of school.
This program, which has been a part of the district's summer outreach efforts for seven years, is currently available in 19 CPS schools, and is geared toward those children who did not have the opportunity to attend a CPS preschool program.
"It's a great way to give students a head start on academics and get them familiar with the routines and expectations that come with school," said Chris Rosean, Director of Preschool for All.
Students who participate in the program spend four weeks working with a Common Core curriculum that includes basic literacy and math skills, as well as social emotional learning, small group activities and gross and fine motor development.
"We work on many readiness skills, including colors, shapes, the alphabet, number recognition, counting, and printing," said Ann McCartin, a kindergarten teacher at Twain Elementary School. "After just a few days in the program, the students are able to follow simple routines and work together in groups, and have gained many important skills needed to be successful when they begin kindergarten."
Another benefit to the program is that students are in the same classroom they will be in this fall, and are working with the same teachers. This allows them to develop relationships and get comfortable with their surroundings prior to the first day of school.
"It's great for the kids, but also it's a huge benefit for the teachers," said McCartin. "It gives us the opportunity to identify each student's strengths and weaknesses so that we can direct our lesson planning for the beginning of the school year."
All students in the program are provided with learning materials and school supplies, and all participate in the Chicago Public Library's "Rahm's Readers" program. Additionally, in keeping with the district's commitment to physical activity during the school day, outdoor play is a daily part of the Step Up to Kindergarten curriculum.
According to McCartin, who has been a CPS teacher for 19 years, students who have the opportunity to participate in this program are better prepared to start kindergarten in the fall.
"It's amazing to see after just a few weeks how much progress the students have made," she said. "And when you see those big smiles at the start of the school year, it makes such a huge difference."