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Welcome to the 2018/2019 school year. I am Adam Dasinger, principal here since the summer of 1998. PGES is a wonderful school that has an inviting "family culture". We aim to educate our students in a positive environment. Our faculty is dedicated to the students in all aspects of their education. I invite you to read about their biographies and professional qualifications at our website. Our students are the reason why we are here and you will find that our teachers treat them "like their own".

Coming from a proud, hardworking tradition, PGES started in the 1920s when one room school house consolidation began. By the late 1920s, Pleasant Grove Junior High School was established and remained that way until the building burned in the early 1970s. After the fire, Pleasant Grove Elementary School has been established on the same campus and now incorporates grades pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. We are proud of our past and excited about what the future holds for us here at PGES as well as Cleburne County.

Welcome again to the start of a new year. If I can be of assistance, please call me at 256-253-2146
Go Hollis !!!
Adam Dasinger, Principal

Kindergarten Assessments Begin to Shape Instruction

11 months ago

October 10, 2017

In the not-too-distant past, the kindergarten classrooms at Pleasant Grove Elementary in Heflin, Ala., looked much the same as classrooms for older children.

Desks were arranged in rows. Children worked on worksheets. "There wasn't a lot of differentiation in your instruction," said Kristi Moore, a kindergarten teacher at the school, located halfway between Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta. "Most of all your children were taught the same way."

But in recent years, the school has tried to shift instruction in a way that they say works better for young children. And they credit the use of a comprehensive method of evaluating kindergarten students, called kindergarten entry assessment, as one of the tools that allowed them to do that.

Kindergarten entry assessments, which some states call "kindergarten readiness assessments" or "kindergarten entry inventories," are intended to guide a teacher's instructional practice. They may include direct assessment of children's skills, teacher observations, or both. They're intended to give teachers a well-rounded picture of the whole child, including his or her academic, social, and physical development.

While these assessments are becoming more widespread—boosted by federal support during the Obama administration—they're offering mixed results for teachers and for school districts.

Supporters say they're useful in supporting all elements of a child's development during their important early school days.

Others have criticized the assessments as an additional burden that doesn't let teachers know what they should do with all the data they're expected to collect. And the assessments also raise concerns for some that they'll be used for high-stakes purposes, like evaluating teachers or sorting children into educational tracks.

One School's Experience

Even as that debate continues the assessments are a reality in most states.

Schools such as Pleasant Grove Elementary offer an example of how these assessments can be used well, teachers there say. Moore and other educators said the assessment prompted them to put aside pacing guides and highly structured instruction that didn't allow time for other parts of child development, which the kindergarten entry assessment outlined as important.

The state department of education and its department of early-childhood education have given grants to seven Alabama schools, including Pleasant Grove, to continue this work.

Twyla Plata, 5, talks with student teacher Emily Robertson while playing in her kindergarten classroom at Pleasant Grove Elementary School in Heflin, Ala.
Twyla Plata, 5, talks with student teacher Emily Robertson while playing in her kindergarten classroom at Pleasant Grove Elementary School in Heflin, Ala.
—Tamika Moore for Education Week

And the teachers say they appreciate being able to adjust their methods as well. "Now you're free to differentiate your instruction all during the day," Moore said, incorporating reading, math, and other academics into more active, developmentally appropriate learning.

As Pleasant Grove demonstrates, "We clearly have found pockets of teachers and of schools where they really understand how to use these resources," said Richard Lambert, a professor in the department of educational leadership at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

Lambert, who also serves as the director of the university's Center for Educational Measurement and Evaluation, has studied the use of kindergarten entry assessments in North Carolina and other states. He is also a consultant to the company Teaching Strategies, which created one of the most widely used assessment of this type, Teaching Strategies Gold. Nine states use this measure to evaluate kindergarten students, or as part of their state measure.

Lambert has conducted surveys of teachers in North Carolina and in other states. Getting teachers to use the information the tests yield and then to modify their teaching based on it is no small task, he said. Teachers are sometimes seeing these tests the way they see end-of-the-year tests, rather than as measures that are supposed to be capturing a child's growth over time.

There's also more variability among teacher evaluations of child skills than could be explained by just differences among children, Lambert said. That suggests that while some teachers understand how the measurement tool is supposed to work, others need more assistance in knowing just how to evaluate children.

Kindergarten entry assessments or inventories are not new, but they received a big push through the federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants, which required applicants to outline a plan of how they were going to use these assessments to promote school readiness. The assessments were required to measure "language and literacy, cognition and general knowledge, approaches to learning, physical well-being and motor development, and social-emotional development," the grant said.

The U.S. Department of Education also had a different grant program just to support state creation of kindergarten-entry assessments.

Researchers have raised questions about whether the assessments meet one goal of providing an academic boost for students. In 2016, the Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands wrote a report saying that using kindergarten entry assessments did not produce statistically significant improvements on students' early reading or math skills.

But the students in that study would have started school well before the Education Department started giving money to states to create or improve their entry assessments.

Piloting Programs

In Virginia, about half of the state's school divisions are piloting a program called the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program. The state already requires incoming kindergartners to be measured on preliteracy skills. The kindergarten-readiness program adds evaluations of children's math, social, and self-regulation skills.

Kindergarten students Eric Lopez and Brayden Contreras, both 5, play on an iPad during their free choice time at Pleasant Grove.
Kindergarten students Eric Lopez and Brayden Contreras, both 5, play on an iPad during their free choice time at Pleasant Grove.
—Tamika Moore for Education Week

It also provides tools for teachers if children show that they are lagging in those areas, said Amanda Williford, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, who developed the measure and is working with districts in implementing it.

"Self-regulation and social skills are just as important, and it's the same kind of skill as reading and math," Williford said. "It's learned in school, just like reading and math are. If a kid was struggling to read, we would never say they don't belong in our classroom."

Melita Ring, a kindergarten teacher at Amelon Elementary in Madison Heights, Va., said she likes having the one-on-one time with her students, and having resources to help students right at her fingertips.

"They're giving you that opportunity to not only teach the children who are struggling, but to learn other ways of doing so," Ring said.

Karma Hugo, the director of early learning for Washington state, said this fall marks the first statewide use of a kindergarten entry assessment, called Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, or WaKIDS. The rollout has been rocky, she acknowledged, as teachers learned how to make meaningful use of the information.

But it has already borne useful results, Hugo said. For example, the findings helped some teachers realize they were asking more in terms of social-emotional growth of their young students than is appropriate for kindergarten-age students. Other findings have helped schools realize that their incoming students needed more math support.

"Many of the bumps that we've encountered have ultimately shined lights on opportunities for improvement," Hugo said.

Vol. 37, Issue 08, Pages 1, 8

Published in Print: October 11, 2017, as Kindergarten Assessments Start to Bear Fruit

Heflin, Alabama

2018/2019----Breakfast In The Classroom

11 months ago

PGES will continue the great success of "Breakfast in the Classroom" from last school year. Grades  PreK, K, 1st, and 2nd grades during the 2018-19 school year will have breakfast brought to the students at the start of each morning. We are the only school in the Clay, Cleburne, Randolph and Calhoun County School Systems to be have this in our early childhood classrooms. 

There are several advantages to Breakfast in the Classroom, with the biggest advantage being to increase participation in the breakfast program by our youngest students, so that all of them will be ready to learn at their maximum potential each morning with a nutritional breakfast. 

Please see the links below for additional information and as always, contact Mr. D at the school for additional information as well.

2018/2019--AMSTI Science at PGES

11 months ago

Exciting news about science instruction at PGES. The faculy and staff completed year 2 of science training in June 2018 with the Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI). We are now a fully trained AMSTI (science) school. 

Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Holmes, Ms.Hubbard, Mrs. Farr, Mrs. Turner, Mr. Bedford , Mrs. Williamson, Mrs. Goggans and even Mr. D attended multiple days of training at Jacksonville High School.

Just like last year, in partnership with the Cleburne County High School Science Department, PGES will continue to have science lab materials (and a dedicated lab) to borrow from to support the training that all science teachers at PGES completed in June 2018. 

Also this summer, over $2,000 dollars has been spent  to improve our science lab and will be used to set up the science "kits"  we will receive (from AMSTI)  this school year as well as supportive lab materials that CCHS has graciously allowed us access to use.

Mrs.Brittany Williamson ( who will teach science to grades 4,5, and 6 this year) will be our liaison with CCHS and will support PGES teachers with lab set up and materials. 

Please contact Mr. Dasinger if you have any questions and thanks CCHS.  

2018/2019--Alabama PreK-through-Third-Grade Integrated Approach to Early Learning

11 months ago

This school year, PGES was one of only 13 schools in the State of Alabama selected from a pool of applicants participating in the expansion Alabama PreK- 3 Leadership Academy (For the 2017/18 school year we were one of eight schools in the state) . Go Hollis!!!

Each participating school  received a $15,000 grant for each classroom to purchase age-appropriate classroom materials and improve early learning experiences. PGES was awarded  $30,000 to expand whole child learning and GOLD assessment for 2nd grade ( last year PGES was awarded $72,000) 

PGES PreK, K and 1st grade will be a part of the program with  expansion to 2nd grade this year.

As told by Governor Ivey, “A strong start in the early years of a child’s education ensures a strong finish in their later educational endeavors. Whether a student will find success in school and the workforce is traditionally evidenced in their performance by third grade,” 

The Alabama PreK-through-Third-Grade Integrated Approach to Early Learning program is a joint partnership between the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education and the Alabama State Department of Education. 

Governors State of the State Address in February

Governor Ivey Announces PreK Through Third Grade Pilot Schools

Governor Ivey's Press Release

PGES Teacher Interviewed About Being Awarded the Grant by the Anniston Star/Cleburne News 

PGES is excited about the changes this year to our early childhood program and way to go Mrs. Blackwell, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Holmes, Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Hubbard and Mrs. Farr.

Please see Mr. D for more information including additional research and information on the PreK through Third Grade Integrated Approach.

How Alabama is Strengthening the PreK-3rd Grade Continuum

about 1 year ago

Building a solid foundation of social-emotional, behavioral, and cognitive skills in early childhood is critical for children to successfully engage in more complex, analytical learning in the latter parts of their educational careers. We know that this distinct period of child development spans from birth through third grade, yet policymakers and even educators frequently treat the early elementary years, from kindergarten through third grade, similar to grades 4-12.  As a result, many K-3 students don’t have access to the unique, developmentally-appropriate instruction and supports they need.

New America’s comprehensive review of state pre-K through 3rd grade (PreK-3rd) policies in 2015 found that although no state has successfully created a seamless, high-quality early education continuum, many had taken great strides to do so. Alabama, for example, showed significant progress in certain areas like ensuring pre-K quality and providing access to free, full-day kindergarten. Albeit a relatively small program serving just 25 percent of the state’s four-year-olds, Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program has consistently seen increased funding and expanded access over the years. It is also one of only six state programs that meets all of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)’s 10 quality benchmarks, having done so for 10 consecutive years.

But while most states have focused their early childhood efforts on expanding access to and improving quality of pre-K, we know that in order for children to sustain the gains made in high-quality pre-K programs, they also need access to high-quality instruction and supports in the K-3 grades. New America’s 2015 analysis revealed that Alabama had room to grow in key policy areas such as providing ongoing K-3 assessments and creating standards and teaching practices that emphasized social-emotional development. This year, however, the state has taken an intentional step towards improving its PreK-3rd continuum by providing supports to schools that are committed to replicating the successes enjoyed in the state’s pre-K programs into grades K-3. This new effort is called the Pre Through 3 Initiative.

First referenced in then-Governor Bentley’s 2017 State of the State Address and later launched by Governor Ivey, the initiative’s ultimate goal is to ensure all students are well-prepared for and reading at grade-level by the end of third grade. It is part of the state’s broader  “Strong Start, Strong Finish” education initiative focused on three stages of education including early childhood education, computer science in middle school and high school, and workforce preparedness. The PreK-3rd component is modeled after the First Class Pre-K program framework and is based on a three-pronged approach to improving early childhood education centered on leadership, instruction, and assessment. In an interview with Jeana Ross, Secretary of the Alabama State Department of Early Learning, she explains that in order to make a program like this work, “there has to be a synergy around all three of these issues.”

The state invited teachers and their principals to apply for a year-long grant that would provide monetary resources for classroom structural improvements, job-embedded professional development for teachers, and leadership training for principals and other school leaders. Secretary Ross explained that making this a grant program was critical both because of its voluntary nature and because the application itself required applicants to be thoughtful in setting a clear mission and vision and creating a detailed work plan.

Thirty-five classrooms from eight school systems were awarded grants last summer and work is already underway. Schools are using the funding—up to $15,000 per classroom—to purchase materials, supplies and equipment. One awardee is Adam Dasinger, the principal at Pleasant Grove Elementary School, who told us in an interview that he has already purchased brand new play structures and other equipment and re-created active learning areas in his classrooms. He said he is grateful that the state provided an expert who could advise him on how best to create a developmentally-appropriate learning environment that would foster student socio-emotional, behavioral and cognitive skill development.

The grant program leaves it up to the individual teacher and leader to decide the specifics of what, how, and when to receive targeted professional development. Teachers have consistent access to coaches who are available to help them consider new instructional or assessment strategies and identify obstacles they need to overcome. The coaches also facilitate opportunities for teacher collaboration across grade levels, which enables better alignment across grades.  Every principal is also participating in the state’s Pre-K-3 Leadership Academy, a blended professional learning program for school leaders with a job-embedded, sustained, and ongoing professional learning experience focused on mastering effective instructional leadership practices that are developmentally-appropriate.

Each school is starting this work from a different place. This means that for some schools, efforts are centered around providing training and supports to kindergarten teachers on critical components of the First Class Pre-K Framework, such as the utility of the Teaching Strategies GOLD assessment. For other schools, where kindergarten classrooms have already established much of this work, their focus may be on extending these efforts into 1st and 2nd grade and encouraging deeper collaboration and coordination amongst teachers across PreK-3rd classrooms.

Efforts to strengthen the PreK-3rd continuum are not new in Alabama. Secretary Ross explainsthat the idea for the pilot itself came from observing local efforts among PreK-3rd teachers to open new lines of communication and create opportunities for collaboration amongst themselves.

This new program has elevated discussion of the K-3 grades to the state level where Governor Ivey and Secretary Ross are advocating for and supporting schools in strengthening the quality of education provided to children throughout this critical period of development. State and school leaders hope to see improvements in children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development as well as to ensure gains made in one year are reinforced and built upon in the next.

The state has secured additional funding, news that Governor Ivey intends on formally announcing December 5th, that will support the program for three additional years and also expand access to at least 35 additional classrooms. The program is currently being supported through the federal government’s Preschool Development Grant program, which is not guaranteed to continue year to year unless Congress appropriates money for it.