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Changes coming in Havre kindergarten program

Among changing educational standards and increased kindergarten enrollment, teachers at Highland Park Early Primary School have noticed some students need a little more preparation. Because of action by the Board of Trustees, those students will have a new option this fall.

The board approved a new program that will give some young kindergarten students another year to get ready, mentally and emotionally, for the new demands of school

"It's something that we've been looking at pretty seriously, " Havre Public Schools Superintendent Andy Carlson said. "What it really boils down to is that conversation at the beginning of the year with (education reform advocate) Jamie Vollmer. Students enter school at different readiness levels.... We want to offer this readiness course. "

Last Tuesday, teachers and administrators told the board about how today's kindergarten is no longer focused on socializing and basic educational necessities, but have moved toward what first grade used to be.

Teachers said students are now expected to complete some pre-algebra-level math and paragraph composition.

"It started around No Child Left Behind, " Highland Park Principal Maureen Odegard said. "Requirements started increasing, as they should, because we have standards that we have to meet across the country and we need to keep pace.

"It's a lot more intense, what they're asking students to do from when we went through. "

Some of the students are not initially able to handle these challenges. Teachers described more frequent tantrums and problems with focusing they notice in younger students. Halfway through the school year, these students begin to develop a maturity similar to their classmates, but by that point they are already behind.

Carlson told the council that he had found that 49 percent of Havre High School's dropouts are these "17-year-old seniors" who were enrolled much younger than their classmates.

"That's just one indicator, but it's a pretty strong indicator, " Carlson said. "We want to provide another opportunity for those students. "

Odegard described the process for determining who needs the help, in a test administered to all incoming kindergartners and an interview review process.

As far as infrastructure, Odegard said, the school is lucky to have just recently expanded, allowing room for the new program.

Odegard's hope, and that of all of Havre Public Schools, is to increase all students' chance of success, throughout their academic career.

"We're not just building first-graders, third-graders and eighth graders, " Odegard said. "We're building high school graduates. Our goal is to be as successful as we can to help them reach that top level. "

Reasons for new program:

  • Increased standards, including pre-algebra and paragraph composition;
  • Maturity issues, i.e. more tantrums, sleepiness and inattentiveness;
  • 49 percent of Havre High School dropouts started early, "17-year-old seniors. "


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