Guest Post by Aaron Bouie III, Executive Director of Elementary Education (PK-5), Youngstown City School District
Join us in celebrating and supporting children and the adults who love, care for, and educate them. A qualified early educator—one who knows how to create a dynamic learning environment—is at the center of every high-quality early learning experience. Dedicated early childhood professionals ensure that all children in their care have the early experiences they need to succeed in school, graduate on time, and thrive later in life.
Today we celebrate Melinda Dubic, a preschool teacher at Youngstown City Schools.
"I am amazed by the significant growth that the scholars have displayed this year. These 3- to 5-year-olds are participating in large group enhanced literacy lessons, which allow scholars to identify their letters, phonic sounds, and so much more," said Melinda Dubic, Youngstown City Schools Preschool. "Our consistent small group and one-on-one instruction and activities have allowed scholars to focus on individual skills while providing the additional support they need to be successful. Not only have I seen growth academically but also socially. Students are learning what it means to be respectful, responsible, and safe, which will be the foundation for their continued education and life experiences.”
Melinda is proud to be a preschool teacher at Youngstown City Schools. The preschool program is a grants-based program that serves children who, on October 1st of the academic year, are either 3- or 4-years old and live within the Youngstown City School District boundaries.
The program is tuition-free if they meet the grant requirements. The grant provides preschool services to economically disadvantaged children whose family income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. However, families that do not meet these qualifications but live in the school district can pay a reasonable tuition amount for their child to attend the quality preschool program.
This school year, Ohio’s Early Childhood Education grant funded 340 half-day preschool slots in the program. The district uses other funding sources to offer preschool full day to scholars.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 45.9% of the Youngstown City School District families have income below the poverty level. Additionally, 60.1% of the families in the school district receive Food stamps/SNAP benefits, and the district's median annual household income is $30,652.
The Youngstown City School District was selected by the Ohio Department of Education to participate in the Comprehensive Literacy State Development grant. We’re working hard as a district to develop model literacy sites to showcase how evidence-based practices are implemented in schools. The preschool program was awarded $393,750 to support enhancing teacher practice and supplemental instructional materials. Youngstown City Schools have been very adaptable to the new teaching and instructional methods. As such, we’ve aligned our preschool efforts to the K-12 shift to focus on the science of reading.
Over the past few years, teachers participated in intensive professional development aligned with the science of reading that is developmentally appropriate for preschoolers. We’ve focused on intentional use of reading aloud, building oral language, and ensuring all children have developmentally appropriate experiences to develop letter-sound knowledge, phonological awareness, and concepts of print. Teachers have been provided the opportunity to try out new instructional methods, curricular materials, and have access to valid and reliable data tools to tell them how their preschool scholars are progressing in their language and literacy development. The Youngstown City School District made a lot of changes in the past few years—and these changes are paying off!
Our YSCD preschool scholars are now outperforming last year’s scholars in every measure on their language and literacy assessment. The percentage of children with language and literacy skills well below benchmark has been cut in half in nearly all measures.
We at Youngstown City Schools want to thank Governor DeWine for proposing a preschool expansion in the state budget. Our team has seen first-hand the amazing impact preschool can have on a child and their family. We were also thrilled to welcome the Governor to our school district to see the impact our shifts in instruction have had on scholars’ literacy growth. We hope Governor DeWine and his team will visit more preschool programs in the communities showcasing their shifts to the science of reading—great work is happening every day to prepare our youngest for their bright futures ahead.
Ohio can continue to honor and invest in Melinda, and all early childhood educators, to improve outcomes for children by supporting new investments that increase accessibility and affordability of child care and support the childcare workforce. This includes the following measures proposed by Governor DeWine:
Child Care Capacity: An investment of $150 million of state ARPA funds to provide child care scholarships to direct care professionals including early childhood professionals and to increase infant and toddler child care capacity in communities throughout the state.
Child Care Eligibility: An expansion of the state's publicly-funded child care program from 142% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 160%, which would result in more than 15,000 children and families gaining access to care.
Preschool: An additional $46 million per year in Early Childhood Education grants, estimated to expand preschool to an additional 11,525 children under 200% FPL as proposed by Governor DeWine and another $46 million over the biennium to serve more three and four-year olds and pilot full day preschool. For every $1 million added to this program, 250 more low-income 3- and 4-year-olds gain access to preschool.
The Department of Child & Youth: Our families have complex problems that require complex solutions. While new investments are critical, we must also work smarter. We are thrilled that the Governor is proposing a department that will be accountable to kids every single day. Bringing together the diverse staff that serves families across multiple agencies to work together under one mission in a cost-neutral effort will bring wisdom, efficiency and, most importantly, accelerated solutions and results for children and families.
We are also asking our state legislature to build upon the Governor's strong proposals and support the following measures:
Targeted Infant & Toddler Child Care Capacity Building in Child Care Deserts: A new investment of $30 million in state funds to increase capacity of local communities, specifically Appalachian and communities with high infant mortality rates, to provide safe and developmentally appropriate child care for infants and toddlers.
Preschool: $23 million per year, in addition the Governor's proposed expansion, in Early Childhood Education grants. These additional funds can support providing additional half-day preschool slots or for the piloting of full day preschool slots.
Want to lend your Big Voice for Little Kids? JOIN US by signing your name to a digital letter in support of the early childhood education workforce and the above investments.