Fulton UPK Program Continues Evolving

FULTON, NY – The Fulton Universal Pre-Kindergarten program continues to grow and boast success as program and school officials prepare to head into the 2016-2017 school year.

Starting in 1999, Fulton UPK enrolled only 78 students in its first year. In most recent years, the enrollment number remains steadily between 150 and 160 students in the UPK program.

Partnered with community based organizations, UPK has classes at each of the four elementary schools in the Fulton City School District.

First Step UPK has two classes at Volney and one class at Granby, Pinnacle has two integrated co-taught classes at Granby, OCO has two classes at Fairgrieve and the YMCA has two classes at Lanigan and one class at Fairgrieve.

Parents are able to indicate the location and class time that best suits them when registering, although these preferences are filled on a first come, first serve basis.

Currently, the UPK program runs as a half day program with a morning and an afternoon class.

However, executive director of instruction and assessment, Betsy Conners notified the board of education that the program has applied for an expansion grant.

With the extension grant, funding will be provided for one class to become a full day program. The selected class would be held at Fairgrieve elementary school and would target economically disadvantaged students throughout the district in its first year.

The same grant would allow two half-day programs to become available for three year old students.

As of now, the UPK program operates as a free pre-kindergarten educational program available to any child who will turn four on or before December 1 of the school year attended. This year, students may enroll to begin UPK in September as long as they will turn four by December 1, 2016.

The program has proven to be effective and produce long term results for students that utilize UPK.

In a presentation to the board of education, UPK coordinator, Carri Waloven explained some of the benefits associated with enrollment in Fulton’s UPK program.

The UPK curriculum is aligned to common core standards that will be seen in kindergarten and throughout primary education at FCSD.

The program follows ELA and math curriculum that spirals into the kindergarten learning standards and prepares students for kindergarten readiness.

The program also emphasizes social and emotional development by modeling the appropriate lessons to teach students the expected social and emotional behaviors.

Waloven explained some evidence of the short term impact of UPK through a local study which found that the average gains in social skills and language and literacy skills was 52% as measured by the PreK Work Sampling Observation System from October to June.

A similar outcome was presented in a long term impact study which showed that nearly 90% of students in the UPK class of 2002-2003 graduated high school with a regents or local diploma whereas just over 10% of the cohort were still enrolled.

The program intends to continue evolving as a CNY Teacher Center Grant offered ten additional hours of professional learning community collaboration last school year on top of eight formal teacher collaboration sessions throughout the school year.

With these ten additional collaboration hours, the UPK program has developed common assessments in ELA and math to “consistently prepare students for kindergarten readiness, no matter which UPK classroom a student attended,” according to Waloven’s presentation.

Two years ago, the UPK team worked on developing a progress report for UPK students that visually looks the same as the standard based progress reports seen throughout elementary school.

This year, the team will work toward “aligning the assessments to go with the progress report. We developed common assessment and common expectation for proficiency. We also created a parent resource to help explain the progress report. We’re planning to implement that this year, mirroring the work K-6 has worked on prior to that to be as cohesive and coherent from kindergarten up,” Waloven said.

The UPK program also includes four family nights which Waloven finds important not only for family engagement but also to allow families the opportunity to see their student’s educational environment.

Without funding to provide transportation, many working families utilize their support system to transport their student to and from school and aren’t often able to interact with the school environment, which is the reason the UPK program offers multiple family nights and participates in the Memorial Day Parade, Waloven explained.

The presentation included three parent survey comments, one of which said, “The teachers exceeded our expectations. They were amazing with the children and really formed bonds with each child. I’m so glad my son was able to experience such a wonderful program!”

To enroll in Fulton’s UPK program for the 2016-2017 school year, you can download the registration packet on the school’s website, call 593-5782, or visit the Fulton Education Center located at 167 S. Fourth St.