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Pre-K students in Baltimore City show vast improvement thanks to Judy Center

Posted at 7:27 PM, Mar 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-14 19:27:13-04

BALTIMORE — Baltimore City Schools are finding a program for pre-kindergarten school students to be a success.

They are outperforming other school districts in the state thanks to pre-k programs like the Judy Center.

School officials say it's having a tremendous impact on its students.

"I'm appreciative. From the marginalized communities they come from, but yet, we are still out performing. But yet we're still doing and yet, we rise. That is what's most important," says Dwight Freeman, principal at Liberty Elementary School.

14 schools throughout Baltimore have a Judy Center.

It's is a grant-based subset of the school districts pre-k program which works with children from birth to five preparing them for school readiness.

Students who attended pre-k programs including the Judy Center, reported at a 46 percent readiness for kindergarten, outperforming the rest of state who reported at 44 percent.

"In our pre-k classrooms, we have been laser focused on ensuring that our young people are learning the key foundations for literacy and mathematics and how to be in the world with their peers. Our teachers do incredible work to be aligned and ready for the children to be prepared for kindergarten," says Dr. Joan Dabrowski, Chief of Academics with Baltimore City Schools.

Liberty Elementary is intentional about the programs they put into place. They invest in families before kids even walk through the door.

"We're working with mom's who are pregnant, so that's the difference with us. When we find out that they have a little baby bump, we are pulling them into our office," says Shelley Powell, Judy Center Coordinator at Liberty.

The needs at Judy Centers throughout Baltimore vary at each school.

The Judy Center at Liberty has parenting programs. They bring fathers into the school, showing their presence is valued.

"Fathers are coming in to do a workshop where they're taught to learn about their love languages. They're able to discuss different things that are going on, co-parenting and things that child support education," says Powell.

"Dads and men don't feel like they have a place in the school or a place in the home a lot of the times and that's not the truth with us. We love to have our fathers here. We love to see the influence they have on their kids life and it just makes the kids more ready for school, ready for life and more confident," says Powell.

The kids mean the world to Powell and other staff members. Many of them went to school at Liberty and all are invested in making sure this community thrives.

"Our kids deserve the same experiences as if they were on the other side of town or in Howard County. They should get the same experience at their school and that's what we're going to provide for them," says Powell.

Principal Freeman and other staff members are proud Baltimore City Schools are outperforming the rest of the state, but says it comes as no surprise.

"Black and Brown children can do great things. They have a brain to use and with great quality instruction, with a strong first teach, our scholars can do whatever it is that any other group is doing," says Freeman.