Superintendent Khris Thexton had never been inside the Kansas Department of Children and Families building before Wednesday, but it turns out DCF and USD 428 share some of the same goals.
Representatives from Great Bend USD 428 and Kansas Reading Roadmap (KRR) visited DCF’s Great Bend Service Center to thank DCF for investing over $500,000 into the Great Bend elementary schools through the Kansas Reading Roadmap Program.
This is the third year for the grant, Thexton said. KRR is an early-literacy partnership for grades K-3 at Great Bend’s five elementary schools. KRR helps with after-school programs, summer school and Literacy Integrated Family Engagement (LIFE) programs. It is funded by the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, administered by DCF.
Steve Thorpe, KRR Director of Family Engagement, said there are 60 schools with KRR programs, including the five in Great Bend. “We have an after-school program that really helps kids with their reading,” he said. The LIFE program encourages parents to consistently read to their children at home, and there’s also a summer school program.
These early-literacy programs are also poverty-fighting programs, he said. Children that are proficient readers by the fourth grade are four times more likely to graduate high school on time. High school graduates have a better economic future, meaning early literacy interventions helps break the cycle of poverty.
Thexton said USD 428 has dramatically increased reading proficiency among third graders through the multi-year partnership.
“We are so appreciative for all the poverty-alleviating programs in the Great Bend area, and are thankful for their provision of the KRR in our schools,” said Thexton. “The KRR has been a really successful program in Great Bend at helping our students develop the skills they need to succeed.”
Also attending Wednesday’s meeting were Trish Bailey, the local KRR coordinator at Lincoln Elementary School, and her nephews Brody and Bentley Corbett, who attended summer school. They presented a Certificate of Appreciation to the Great Bend DCF staff for their support of local poverty prevention and supporting efficient, effective strategies like KRR.
They also talked about their own summer school experiences. Bentley said one of his favorite things was the “book nook,” where the students could read a book and then answer questions. Brody enjoyed the enrichment program that allowed him to make his own book and enter a writing contest.
Assistant Superintendent John Popp said his daughter also attended summer school, and loved it. “We have seen tremendous growth in her over the last three years,” he said.
“We appreciated the (summer school) program a lot,” Thexton said. “They get to do a lot of fun things.” Although KRR is only for grades K-3, the district followed the same model for the programs it offered to fourth and fifth graders during summer school, he said.
The LIFE programs bring entire families to the schools once a week for eight weeks, to share a meal and learn new skills. Thorpe said LIFE groups have stayed together after the program, creating networking opportunities and support circles.
This has helped parents to become more engaged in school, Thexton said.
Thorpe joined the school staff to express appreciation to DCF. He said that through KRR and other Economic and Employment Services programs, DCF is helping children and their families break the cycle of poverty. He credited Gov. Jeff Colyer and DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel for this investment in Great Bend schools.
“Through its support of KRR, DCF has launched a new approach that aligns social service funding with early education investments to get better results for children,” said Thorpe. “This kind of cross-agency collaboration is an example of making government work better for Kansans.”