Dr. Christine Johns

Home » Teaching and Learning » A First Class Start

A First Class Start

The restructured all-day kindergarten program implemented by Utica Community Schools last September is already earning top grades for student achievement.

New results from a national assessment indicate our students have achieved significant gains in mathematics and reading over the first semester.

The new program that blends traditional teaching and technology-based learning was set into motion a year ago when the Board of Education initiated a full day of instruction for all UCS kindergarten students. 

During the planning process last spring, our team of teachers, principals and other curricular leaders explored how technology could be used to take full advantage of the additional instructional time for our youngest learners. 

The result was an innovative learning model that is gaining attention across the country. Thanks to the initiative and expertise of UCS kindergarten teachers, students now benefit from an environment where technology supports their individual learning needs and pace. 

The students are connected to the curriculum through a digital environment that allows them to take charge of their own learning. This engagement builds independence, self-esteem, creativity, communication skills and motivation.

UCS kindergartners are using technologies that include iPads, laptops and interactive white boards to develop the skills necessary for college- and career-readiness and 21st Century success. The district has partnered with national educational experts to provide platforms that enable learning to take place in the classroom and at home.

In the first six months of our new program, the national testing data indicates:

  • UCS student achievement this year has exceeded traditional expectations in both mathematics and reading.
  • UCS students are outperforming their peers across the nation by five percentile points.
  • The percentage of UCS kindergarten students ready for first grade has tripled since the beginning of the school year.

Kindergarten is the vital first step in mastering the Common Core State Standards, the national initiative to raise the level of teaching and learning in America’s schools to prepare all children for success in the global economy.

In posting such encouraging first test results, we can clearly anticipate continued academic growth and confidence that our teachers and students are meeting the Common Core challenge.  What is also clear is that our restructured kindergarten program is giving students a positive beginning to a life-long love of learning. Utica Community Schools is truly offering next year’s first graders a first-class start in every way.

Dr. Christine Johns
Utica Community Schools


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