TROY receives $363,000 grant from W.K. Kellogg Foundation to help area pre-K education

Posted: Tuesday, 24 May 2016

DOTHAN - Troy University's Department of Teacher Education will help local pre-K facilities better educate 4-year-olds thanks to a $363,096 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The grant will fund Project Pre-K to K Transition, a program that will create partnerships between three TROY education faculty members and two childcare facilities per year for three years.

The pre-K facilities, which will be chosen based on their location in low-income areas of Dothan, will serve about 30 families.

Project Pre-K to K Transition will include hiring two part-time certified teachers, providing a high-quality research-based curriculum, as well as providing professional development and ongoing support for child care providers of 4-year-olds. The project will also include supplying each classroom with a library of high-quality children's literature, and iPads that will have appropriate e-books and educational applications.

In addition, parent/guardian workshops and home visits will be used to equip parents in ways to promote early learning in the home.

"Quality early learning programs help to narrow the achievement gap faced by children growing up in poverty who often fail to meet basic literacy standards," said Dr. Cynthia Hicks, Troy University associate professor of reading education.

A pilot for the program was conducted in 2013 thanks to a grant by the Wiregrass Foundation.

"The childcare directors and teachers are excited about the high-quality curriculum materials and professional development training that was provided, which in turn improved the literacy levels of the 4-year-old children being served," Hicks said. "Through pre-and-post-assessment data, literacy achievement levels showed significant gains."

Dr. Hicks, Lecturer Pam Wimbish and Dr. Tonya Conner of the Dothan Campus will serve as co-directors, conducting workshops and providing on-site support for the pre-K teachers designed to enhance the quality of early childhood education being provided at the childcare centers.

"Project Pre-K to K Transition will continue to close the achievement gap for years to come by providing job-embedded professional development for the child care providers with an emphasis on planning, feedback and using data to drive the instruction," said Dr. Conner.

Wimbish added that the pilot program helped the co-directors determine areas of the project to tweak and improve.

"We learned quite a bit from our pilot year of the project and have strengthened our multi-year project by adding more family involvement strategies, attendance incentives and certified teachers," Wimbish said.

The program is expected to begin in June.