Patti RasmussenThe SignalPauline HarteRichard RiouxTim WhyteLeon Worden

Special programs address needs of the 'whole child'

Patti Rasmussen · October 18, 1997

So much has changed in education that sometimes it's hard to keep track of all the programs being offered at our local grade schools. One would think that the three R's (reading, writing and 'rithmetic) are all it takes, but the current social climate has forced our school administrators and teachers to adjust.

Class-size reduction has probably been the biggest singular change since we Baby Boomers hit grade school. We impacted the school system and, in return, had plenty of children of our own to send to school. Classes got bigger and bigger. My boys had up to forty kids in their first grade class. They also had great teachers who were able to educate those children just fine. I can only imagine what a great first grade education they would have gotten with half of the students in another room.

While educators and parents sing the praises of class-size reduction, the addition of portables to provide extra classroom space has impacted all of our schools. But portables are supplying much more than extra first-grade classrooms. The following is a partial list of special services offered to students and their parents in the Newhall School District. Some programs are housed in portables while others find any space available. All compliment each other and enhance a child's education.

Title 1 ... A federally-funded program based on standardized test scores and designed to assist students scoring at or below 36 NCE (normal curve equivalent). The highly successful Project Read, as well as math support, are some of the assistance these students receive. Title 1 is available to students at the Newhall, Peachland, Wiley Canyon and Old Orchard elementary schools.

Title 7 ... A federal grant in the amount of $1.5 million was secured to offer assistance to Spanish-speaking children and their parents. Included in this program is a pre-school (probably the second most important change in primary education) and English as a Second Language class. This is available only to Newhall Elementary School students. Peachland Elementary offers a pre-school program that is funded by the state and open to all children in the Newhall School District.

PIP (Primary Intervention Program) ... This state-funded program is offered at all seven school sites in the Newhall School District. Each site employs a mental health professional and two child assistants who work one-on-one with students, thirty minutes a day for a twelve-week period. The program is designed to intervene with a child who demonstrates unusually shy behavior or those who may have problems interacting with their peers. "A good example of this is a child who is new to the school or who may have some sort of upset at home," says Betty Granger, director special projects.

Healthy Start ... A new (just opened last week) federally-funded grant in the amount of $1.25 million was secured to provide social and medical service referral to low-income children and their families. The Newhall School District collaborated with 25 agencies that will provide these services at little or no cost. Examples of the services are dental, immunizations, eye glasses, drug and alcohol abuse, gang awareness as well as English as a Second Language classes for parents. The center employs one case manager and a community liaison and is available only to students at Newhall Elementary School.

Bilingual education is offered to students in the Newhall, Peachland, Old Orchard and Wiley Canyon Schools. This program is made available to children whose primary language is Spanish. Proponents of bilingual education believe that in order to teach non-English speaking children, they must be taught in their native language and then be transitioned into English. Opponents are currently debating this. A recent L.A. Times poll (10-15-97) found that 80 percent of all voters polled support a proposed initiative to have all public school instruction conducted in English, and to place students who are not fluent in English in a short-term English immersion program. Eighty-four percent of the Latinos polled agreed. The debate continues.

There are more programs available to students that enhance or assist in their education (I haven't mentioned GATE [Gifted and Talented Education] or special day classes). Going back to my original statement, times have changed and teachers must adjust to these changes in order to educate all children.

When we think this is too much (what happened to the three R's?), I remember something Mrs. Granger relayed to me in our recent conversation about her years as a school principal.

"Before there was a school breakfast program, I used to keep graham crackers and raisins and such in my desk. By 10 a.m. I saw children who were hungry. Kids can't learn if they're hungry or in pain. We must look at the whole child."

Could you ever deny children something to eat? Children today still have needs. Maybe it's time for all of us to look at the whole child. After all, mine is sitting right next to yours.

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Patti Rasmussen's commentaries appear in The Signal on Saturdays.

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