North Side Schools Offer Family Support To Boost Early Learning
By Shamane Mills
Madison-area schools are expanding an effort to narrow the achievement gap between students who are well off and those who aren’t. Typically, the disparity in grades breaks down along racial lines.
In 2013, Leopold Elementary in Madison was the first to give at-risk students a boost before they entered school. Now, elementary schools on Madison’s north side in the Blackhawk Middle School attendance area — Mendota, Lindbergh, Gompers and Lakeview elementary schools — are creating what’s called an Early Childhood Zone.
Mendota Elementary School Principal Carlettra Stanford said the school has talented, dedicated staff, but the challenges many students face is too much for schools alone. She said it takes family, staff and the community to ensure kids are prepared to learn so they don’t start falling behind.
Some students get a late start learning because their families are struggling financially, said Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.
“While we’re doing everything we can to strengthen learning and teaching in the classroom we need our community to do everything it can to mitigate barriers,” Cheatham said.
The zones offer services that promote family stability and encourage learning from birth to age three, with a goal of having kids be ready for kindergarten. The Early Childhood Zones are a partnership between the schools, United Way, the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation and local governments.
“A community school provides the network and the services that students and families need; from job training, to tutoring for students, to mental health services,” Cheatham said.
The first Early Childhood Zone started in 2013 in Madison. A year later, in 2014, similar programs were launched in Sun Prairie and Verona.
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