Director of Early Literacy
Mansfield Independent School District
District Combines Hands-on Exploration and Research-based Practices for Early Learning Success
Mansfield ISD’s Vision 2020 begins with the guiding statement that all students will read on grade level by the beginning of third grade. Unfortunately, data shows that the percentage of MISD second-grade students reading on grade level or higher plateaued at 87 percent. As we researched ways to reach the remaining 13 percent, we found ourselves back at the foundation of education: pre-kindergarten.
Our investigation of best practices in early childhood education led us to create the Dr. Sarah K. Jandrucko Academy for Early Learners (or as we call it, “The Academy”). The Academy’s focus is to improve the school readiness of young children using creative, hands-on, interactive experiences within a researched-based early childhood program. The facility celebrates learning in a play-based, safe and emotionally-secure environment. The design features 16 distinct experiences that allow our youngest learners to gain literacy and numeracy skills while building background knowledge of the world around them.
“We realize that not all pre-K classrooms in the state are fortunate enough to include a spaceship or a submarine. Many classrooms in MISD are not. However, we believe the instructional design of The Academy can be successfully replicated in pre-K classrooms across our district and the state.” – Mansfield ISD
Working closely with the Board of Trustees and our local community during the planning process allowed us to raise awareness and support for the project. A design team consisting of MISD administrators and teachers, Huckabee Architects, Bartlett Cocke General Contractors, and Exhibit Concepts spent a seven-month journey designing The Academy. We secured funding through a combination of savings from other projects and a change in the district’s fiscal year. The MISD Education Foundation also partnered with the district to offset the cost of some of the exhibits.
We spent the school year not only planning and executing the opening of our new Academy, but also revising our pre-K curriculum to reflect active, explorative experiences around a theme. This builds the background knowledge students need to be successful in the early elementary school grades and beyond. We are watching the legislative session closely with the hope that additional funds could be used to provide classroom and coaching resources to teachers. We realize that not all pre-K classrooms in the state are fortunate enough to include a spaceship or a submarine. Many classrooms in MISD are not. However, we believe the instructional design of The Academy can be successfully replicated in pre-K classrooms across our district and the state. Of course, ideally, we would love for every MISD pre-K student to have access to this same type of learning facility.