Empowering Families: A Discussion on Informed School Selection

Scott, Director of Family and School Engagement with MySchoolsTucson
Check out this insightful open discussion dedicated to strategies communities can take to help families navigate the diverse educational landscape. This session, centered on families and students, was led by Scott Evans, Director of Family and School Engagement

Navigating the Back-to-School Transition: ADHD Accommodations for a Successful Home Environment

By Nicole Moore, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

Semi-fall has arrived in southern Arizona. This is the time of year when the monsoons are winding down, and the scorching hot temperatures persist. While no falling leaves are in sight, there is still a change in the season for families in the desert.  As the rush of returning to school settles and new routines begin to take shape, parents find themselves delicately balancing the management of their children’s school and home lives. The start of a new school year often brings a mixture of excitement and challenges, especially for students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

 

This transition also adds an extra layer of contemplation for families, as the unstructured days of summer are behind them, replaced by scholastic demands.  Parents supporting children with ADHD must take into account their child’s distinct experiences to provide customized support spanning academic, cognitive, emotional, social, and familial aspects. This can sometimes result in families feeling overwhelmed by these demands and uncertain about where to initiate their efforts.

Hence, comprehending the situation is pivotal. ADHD is a neurodevelopment disorder characterized by challenges in sustaining attention, controlling impulses, and regulating hyperactivity. These symptoms can significantly impact a student’s ability to concentrate, organize tasks, and manage time effectively. Consequently, academic performance and daily routines may suffer, leading to frustration, family conflicts, and anxiety/depression.

Therefore, preparing your child for success requires careful planning. Incorporating your child’s perspective can bolster their readiness to engage in home-based accommodations that might be different from those of their siblings. This can be an opportunity for collaboration and empathy. Your child’s insights, suggestions, and ideas hold great significance in this process. 

They might have previously attempted successful approaches or possess fresh concepts you have not considered. Children are resilient and can evolve into your most steadfast allies in their own support.
So, gather a notepad, create a comfortable space, and put on your thinking caps as you and your child/teen come together to strategize a successful academic year within the home environment.

Together, here are some things to explore:  

1. Homework Space:
Take a moment to assess your home surroundings. Identify a spot where you and your child can establish a productive study area. This space should be free from distractions, clutter, and noise, creating an optimal setting for your child’s concentration. Make sure there’s ample lighting, comfortable seating, and suitable tools to address fidgeting when necessary.
It’s important to acknowledge that it’s typical for kids with ADHD to read while standing, fidget their legs under the desk while counting, or require frequent breaks to re-center their focus after extended periods of concentration. Therefore, integrating these elements into the learning environment will contribute to an extra layer of success. Friendly Reminder: Parents are masters of multitasking. It might seem convenient to have the kids work on homework at the kitchen island while preparing dinner. However, this approach is likely to result in distractions, difficulty focusing, frequent need for redirection, and potentially even moments of frustration, yelling, or tears for your child with ADHD. Bear in mind that your child with ADHD has distinct requirements compared to their siblings and may benefit from dedicated, one-on-one attention from parents (without multitasking) during homework sessions. It could be worthwhile for parents to reevaluate their expectations concerning homework space and time management, considering the individual needs of their child.

2. Time Management and Scheduling
Managing time poses challenges for numerous students, particularly those with ADHD. Allocating sufficient time for extracurricular activities, chores, and homework can reduce the need to rush through tasks, ultimately leading to a decrease in behavioral challenges. Visual schedules, reminders, and timers serve to enhance structure after school hours. For older students, digital tools, school planners, and apps can aid in task management. Teaching your child time-blocking techniques can effectively aid in prioritization and time allocation. What is the most age appropriate tool you and your child can use to help increase time management and scheduling? What would need to be done to put this into place?

3. Breaking Down Tasks and Setting Goals
The concept of sending your 7-year-old to clean their room might seem practical, but for a child with ADHD, it could prove to be an overwhelming endeavor. That’s why, after about 10 minutes, you might find them engrossed in playing with magnets instead. The key lies in breaking tasks into manageable portions to foster success.

For instance, instead of a broad directive, you could ask them to pick up and put away all the books in their room onto the bookshelf. Then, move on to the next task, one step at a time, until the entire room is tidied up. Complex assignments can be particularly daunting for students with ADHD. The intensity of focus required for such tasks often triggers a feeling of being overwhelmed, leading to shutdowns, procrastination, or task avoidance.

To address this, encouraging the division of assignments into smaller, attainable segments can make the process more feasible. Establishing both short-term and long-term goals imparts a sense of direction. Guiding your young scholar to break tasks into smaller parts and allocate time for each short-term goal within their schedule will nurture vital task-completion skills.

Don’t forget to acknowledge times of positive task completion. Commemorating even the tiniest accomplishments can heighten motivation.

4. Effective Study Techniques for ADHD Learners
Customizing study techniques to align with the distinctive learning styles of students with ADHD can lead to favorable results. Incorporating active learning strategies, like hands-on activities or discussions, can heighten engagement. Employing multi-sensory methods that encompass visual, auditory, and kinesthetic components can strengthen the learning process. Moreover, integrating self-testing and retrieval practices can enhance information retention. Transforming a regular paper-and-pencil homework task into something more dynamic can significantly contribute to maintaining your child’s engagement. If they are bored, get creative!

5. Incorporating Sensory Strategies & Breaks
Collaboratively, pinpoint some indicators for both you and your child to recognize as signals that it’s time for a break. One method to counteract burnout involves implementing structured breaks. For instance, after every 30 minutes of concentrated work, allow for a 10-minute break. Often, children and teenagers may be uncertain about how to spend these breaks. Here, parents can offer support by introducing sensory reset techniques, like calming activities or gentle movement exercises. Drinking water, doing wall pushes, heading outdoors for a quick run, or even performing push-ups can be beneficial for those seeking sensory input.

Sensory strategies hold a pivotal role in helping students with ADHD maintain engagement and focus. It’s worth noting that, at times, parents might interpret these strategies as play during homework time. However, fidget tools can channel excess energy, ultimately enhancing concentration.

6. Communication and Collaboration
Effective communication among parents, teachers, and students is paramount to your child’s success. Sharing ADHD accommodations and strategies across both home and school environments ensures everyone is aligned and working collaboratively toward a shared objective. Having consistent accommodations in both settings enhances support and coherence.

Empowering students to express their needs and challenges cultivates a sense of empowerment. Many students find it challenging to seek help in the school context due to social embarrassment. However, the ability to advocate for oneself is an invaluable skill. Teaching your child to identify their strengths and areas for improvement empowers them to seek appropriate assistance, fostering a heightened sense of achievement and self-assuredness.

At home, engage in regular check-ins with your child to discuss in-home accommodations. Collaboratively identifying areas for refinement ensures your child receives the most beneficial support and the space to explore and advocate for their needs. It’s important to keep in mind that what proved effective in one school year might necessitate adjustments in the next, reflecting the evolving nature of your child’s needs.

7. Time In
Children and teenagers with ADHD often experience frequent refusals, and it can feel like you’re constantly telling them no. Dedicate a minimum of 15 minutes each day for “time-in” with your child – this is your “YES” time. Say yes to watching them play video games, yes to participating in a board game, and yes to being present as they attempt to learn their new favorite TikTok dance (without making remarks about the tidiness of their room).

Kids with ADHD possess remarkable talents, and when they discover something they love, their hyperfocus – a hallmark of ADHD – propels them to excel. Engaging in your child’s passions offers you the opportunity to view the world through their eyes. This unique time investment fosters connections and enhances relationships.

8. Setbacks and Celebrating Progress
Setbacks are an inherent aspect of every learning journey. One of the toughest aspects of parenting is witnessing your child face difficulties. Nonetheless, affording your child room to stumble, being there to catch them when they falter, and aiding them in their efforts to rise and try again play a pivotal role in their long-term success. Grasping this concept and extending unwavering support to your child during trying moments is crucial.

There might be moments when it appears that setbacks are occurring. However, it could be that your child is not aligning with your expectations. This path might lead to a slippery slope of guilt and shame as a parent/advocate. At times, this could drive you to push your child beyond their capacity, inducing feelings of guilt and shame for not meeting your expectations.

Hence, consider involving a trusted co-parent, friend or therapist to assist in evaluating your expectations. Paradoxically, as you support your child, you may uncover the necessity for additional support for yourself. This process might even unveil an opportunity for the catalyzing change and healing on an intergenerational level. This may be challenging, however, it is a sign of growth.

Similarly, do not overlook the power of celebration! Make sure you are acknowledging and commemorating small triumphs and enhancements, regardless of their magnitude, for this fosters self-esteem and nurtures a resilient attitude. Maybe the celebration focuses on the mere fact that your child is trying. That is huge! How can you celebrate your child in big and small milestones?

Alright, you’ve got your strategies all mapped out and ready to implement! Great job, everyone! Just keep in mind that things won’t magically fall into place and go smoothly right away. These changes will require time and adjustment as you gather data on what works best. Be sure to give yourself some grace as a caring parent who wants the best for your child. With time, these home accommodations you’re putting in place will become second nature, and you’ll start seeing those positive outcomes. Hang in there, because you’re doing an amazing job too!

 

In conclusion, establishing a supportive home environment for students with ADHD requires a joint endeavor marked by comprehension, patience, and flexibility. By putting into practice the personalized strategies that you and your child devise, parents, students, and educators collectively contribute to a smooth back-to-school transition. Through transparent communication, customized accommodations, and a nurturing atmosphere, students with ADHD can not only excel academically but also cultivate the essential skills for a promising future.

Nicole Moore

Nicole Moore is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist based in Tucson, AZ. With a focus on mental health, Nicole brings considerable experience in assisting individuals and families. She has a specialization in working with ADHD, spanning children, teenagers, and adults.

Beyond her professional role, Nicole possesses firsthand understanding as a parent of a child with ADHD. Her perspective aligns with the belief that ADHD, when channeled effectively through positive accommodations, can become a unique strength. Outside of her clinical work, Nicole relishes quality time with her family, outdoor pursuits, and embarking on new adventures.

www.familyimprintscounseling.com 

The 8 questions every parent should ask at parent-teacher conferences

Two adults reviewing paperwork in a classroom

By Scott Evans, Community Investment Corporation

Can you believe it is already almost time for parent-teacher conferences?

Parent-teacher nights are coming up soon. This is a great first step in engaging with the teacher and supporting your child. This is your opportunity to form a relationship with the teacher and learn more about the time your child spends at school.

So let’s get prepared!

Why Are Parent/Teacher Conferences Important?

There is no magic wand for you to wave that will increase your child’s chances at school success. However, researchers have continually pointed to one key success factor: family engagement or parental involvement. Research has shown that students whose parents are involved in their education have better attendance, get better grades, demonstrate better social skills, and have less disciplinary issues.

Dive into the research here:

Two adults reviewing paperwork in a classroom

What Should I Expect at the Parent/Teacher Conference?

In most cases, your time will be limited, as the teacher has many families to meet with during the week of conferences. Therefore, coming prepared with questions will help ensure the conversation touches on things you want to know. Here are some tips to help you get started!

  • Meetings are typically held at the school, in-person and one-on-one.
  • Meeting length is typically 15-30 minutes in length (so time will be limited).
  • Ask questions that will help you gain insight into your child’s performance and behavior during class time.

Tips to Team Up with Your Teacher

You are the expert of your child at home and your teacher is the expert in the classroom. Be prepared to share and help the teacher get to know your child.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions… even if you are afraid to hear the answer OR you think you already know the answer.

You don’t have to be an expert in reading and math to advocate for your child. But, you certainly can learn how to better support your child academically. Find out what your child is expected to learn, what “grade level” looks like in key subjects, and how you can best support them at home.

Go beyond grades! Grades are only part of the story. There are many other important child development milestones and qualities to nurture. Inquire about listening skills, social and emotional skills and character development.

8 Essential Questions to Ask the Teacher!

To be best prepared for these meetings here are 8 of the most important questions to ask during a parent/teacher conference.

  1. How do you prefer to communicate? (Email, phone, text, school app, planner)
  2. In what moments do you see my child thriving and struggling?
  3. How does my child get along with other students and teachers? (Do they have friends, include others, being left out, etc.)
  4. Does my child ask questions and advocate for themselves when they don’t understand?
  5. What are the key grade level math and reading skills my child is expected to learn this year?
  6. How will I as a parent/guardian know if and when my child is struggling or excelling academically?
  7. How can I best support my child at home?
  8. How can I best support you (the teacher)?

Hopefully, these questions will help make your parent/teacher conference productive, insightful and informative. We hope you take advantage of this opportunity to engage with your child’s teacher and learn how you can best set your child up for success!

For more research on Family Engagement visit the Research Blog at the Annie E. Casey Foundation
For more family resources and a Parent’s Guide to Student Success visit the National PTA

Scott Evans

Scott Evans is currently the Director of Family and School Engagement at Community Investment Corporation (CIC) and is also the Director of MySchoolsTucson.org. He has his Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology. His experience includes over 15 years of experience working as the Director of Counseling in both public and private education. In addition, Scott has coached high school sports for over 20 years. He has dedicated much of his life to serving children and their families.

Community Investment Corporation

Community Investment Corporation’s (CIC) goal is to promote economic inclusion for all members of southern Arizona, regardless of socioeconomic status. Our work ensures that more people in our community can buy homes, can access the education they want for their children, and can get the funding they need to start, sustain, and grow their small businesses. CIC proudly powers MySchoolsTucson.org. to ensure that all Pima County families have access to free, accurate, and unbiased information about schools so that they can make informed decisions about their child’s education. For more information please visit https://cictucson.org/

What to Consider as your Child Transitions from Preschool to Kindergarten 

By Amy Morales Baum, First Things First

As a parent there are many decisions to make. Some decisions are easier, for example what to make our children for breakfast, while others are much more weighty. As a parent, I found that deciding which elementary school my child would attend to be one of those weighty decisions. In the state of Arizona, there are many options for education. When you are navigating this for the first time it can be overwhelming. As a former preschool director and parent who has navigated this transition for myself and others, here are few considerations I think are important to prioritize: 

What school will fit my child and our family best?

This is a question that is important to consider. What setting will your child thrive in a small or larger class setting, traditional or more hands-on learning? Is location important? Do you wish to have a school or district that continues on to upper grades? Do you desire language immersion? Are finances a concern? What is/are your goal(s) for your child at the end of their elementary education? Do you desire a faith-based education? Will this be a school that will work for all of your children or do you plan to take your children to different schools? Take a moment to consider these questions as you research schools.

Start Early! Open Enrollment and Time Frames

In Tucson, you have lots of school options including public, private, charter, homeschool and combination schools. To open enroll, meaning enroll in a school outside of your district, there are strict deadlines and timeframes to do so. Dates and enrollment typically start in November and deadlines close between December and January for many schools. Make sure to look up the dates and information for the potential schools you would like to send your child to and enroll as soon as the dates open. If you live in the district and desire for your child to attend the district school you can enroll your child online. Time frames are not quite as tight for this.

Kinder Round Ups

Kinder Round Ups are meetings at your potential next school to discuss the ins and outs of the school. You usually learn about the program and what their focus is, meet some teachers and get a chance to ask questions. It can be very helpful to attend these as meeting administrators, teachers and hearing first hand can be a good indicator of what the school will be like. These usually begin in November. Call any schools you are interested in the early Fall to get these dates on your calendar.

Funding Options

Arizona has many funding options for private schools for your child. These include the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program and tax credit programs. The programs can be used for private schools, both religious and secular. If you are desiring a private school, ask the school administrators about the options for funding. It is 100% possible to get your child’s private education fully funded through these programs with a little work and knowledge of the process.

Anticipate the Transition

This is a big transition for you and for your child. Big emotions may come for children and parents. This is normal. Allow your child and yourself to process the changes, while encouraging them and comforting them in this transition. The step from preschool to elementary school is one of the first steps from our child being a little kid to now stepping into the big kid world.

With these considerations in mind, hopefully the overwhelming nature of this decision feels a little less overwhelming. Ultimately, I hope this process allows you to find a school where you feel confident sending your child and your child is able to thrive.

Amy Morales Baum

Amy Morales Baum is currently the Regional Director of Pima North for First Things First. She has her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Her experience includes teaching in public, private and international settings, working with the Arizona Early Intervention Program, serving children and families in the Department of Child Safety, and leading as a preschool administrator.

First Things First

First Things First is a voter funded initiative that is committed to seeing all of Arizona’s children ready to succeed in school and in life. This is done through the work of local volunteer Regional Councils who decide on programs to fund in the region that support young children and their families. In Pima County, programs include scholarships for early childhood education; literacy programs that show families how literacy starts at an early age; home visitation programs that provide voluntary in-home parent coaching from a trained parent educator a few times a month; and more. For more information go to: https://www.firstthingsfirst.org/resources/find-programs/

Enrollment Timeline & Application Deadlines

School children raising hands while looking at teacher.

Understand school application and enrollment deadlines and important dates.

BE MINDFUL OF THESE THINGS: 

  • Schools have different deadlines and timelines.When considering your schools, always find out the date when applications need to be submitted. 
  • Be ready to apply in the FALL to avoid missing enrollment windows.  It can be difficult or impossible to gain admission if enrollment deadlines are missed.  
  • Don’t get lulled to sleep.  Many schools claim to have “rolling” admissions.  However, that does NOT mean there will be an available seat if you apply in the spring.  

Look for school fairs and open houses from fall to spring. Please visit our School Enrollment Event Calendar to stay up to date on enrollment events in Tucson.

IMPORTANT TUCSON ENROLLMENT FACT:  

MANY schools have application deadlines in NOVEMBER. The misconception is that this is only a private or charter school timeline.  This is NOT the case…this can apply to all types of schools (district public schools, charter schools, and private schools).  

Application tips and reminders for different types of schools

Public District Schools:  

  • All Arizona families are assigned a neighborhood public school to attend. 
  • All school districts have a boundary map – your “neighborhood” school is determined by your home address. 
  • Registration usually opens in November.  Enroll by March at the latest, although most public schools have rolling admissions.
  • Some of the more popular schools or magnet schools may even have a December or Early January priority deadline.
  • Click here for links to all 15 Tucson School Districts enrollment page and more

Public Schools VIA Open Enrollment or Magnet Schools:  

  • This applies to you if you are applying to enroll in a Public District school that is NOT your “neighborhood” or “assigned” school. 
  • Just because they’re public schools doesn’t mean you’re automatically accepted.  
  • Space can be limited and will require an early application (typically early January) if the school is NOT your assigned “neighborhood” school. 
  • Be aware of application deadlines and be ready to apply no later than Early January.

Public Charter Schools:  

  • While Charter Schools in Arizona are indeed public schools – that doesn’t mean you are guaranteed enrollment.  
  • Charter schools may have very short “open enrollment” windows – so check with the school.
  • They may have a limited number of seats available, so they may have a “wait list” for students who are not initially accepted.
  • Be aware of application deadlines and be ready to apply in November or December to have the best opportunity of securing a seat.

Private Schools:  

  • Private schools typically have an admissions process with application deadlines in December or January.
  • An application to a private school will have many moving parts, such as Application, admission tests, transcripts from previous schools, letters of recommendation, interviews, and more.
  • Be aware of application deadlines and be ready to apply in November or December.
  • Universal ESA and AZ tax credit programs have separate deadlines and timelines.
  • For more info on funding a private school education click here

General School Enrollment Timeline

OCTOBER:  

Start school exploration and research.  

OCTOBER-NOVEMBER:

Attend open houses and school enrollment fairs

NOVEMBER-DECEMBER:  

Submit applications for District ‘Open Enrollment’ schools, Charter schools, and Private Schools

JANUARY:  

Application deadlines for many schools.

Tax-Credit and ESA “Voucher”  applications submitted (private schools).

JANUARY-MARCH:  

Attend open houses and school fairs.

Tour schools. 

FEBRUARY-APRIL:

Schools notify admitted students.

MARCH-APRIL:

Families make final school decisions and ENROLL with school of choice. 

APRIL-JULY: 
Rolling admissions for schools NOT at capacity.

Submit ESA applications (private schools).

Questions to Ask on a School Tour

The Questions ALL Parents Should Ask Schools - But Rarely Do!

A school tour may be the most important research tool a parent has in their pocket.  Getting on campus and asking questions will provide insight that you cannot get from a website or the experience of your neighbors. 

However, it is important to come prepared and NOT be afraid to ask questions.  This is your time to gain valuable insight.

Even if you cannot fit a tour of the school into your schedule, you can always email or call to get some of your questions answered.  Here are some questions to help you think about what your family is most interested in or would like to know.

  • What are the drop-off and pick-up times?
  • What is the average class size?
  • Do you offer on-campus before and after care?  What is the cost?
  • Does the school provide transportation?
  • Does the school offer a free and reduced lunch program?
  • How does the school communicate with families?
  • What school data are you using to measure success?
  • How do you evaluate individual progress? How will I know if my child is growing as a learner?
  • How do students perform on state tests compared to state averages?
  • Does the school provide teaching or learning in the community?
  • When and how will progress reports be shared with parents?
  • What were the successful lessons learned from educating through a pandemic?
  • How do world languages, arts, technology, and physical education fit into the curriculum?
  • How does technology support teaching and learning?
  • Does your school have a specific educational philosophy?
  • How do you keep parents informed about what is being taught in the classroom?
  • What is your philosophy regarding homework? How much is required on a typical night?
  • How do you respond to students who have academic or behavioral difficulties?
  • How do you differentiate instruction? Do you have a Gifted program?
  • Describe to me how you support special needs students?
  • What support do you have in place for working families?
  • What strategies are in place to teach students who are not fluent in English?
  • What values do you instill in your students? How do you promote these values?
  • Describe the diversity of the student and staff population.
  • What actions does the school take to address diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • Tell me about your approach to discipline.
  • How do you allow for parental voice/feedback/input?
  • What school events help build the school community?
  • What makes this school an “outstanding” experience for students?
  • Will the school be able to meet all of my child’s special needs and IEP parameters?
  • What is the student-to-teacher ratio, especially in self-contained classrooms?
  • How does the school/principal feel about inclusion?  
  • Are students with special needs included with their peers for some subjects and special activities?  
  • What is the school’s behavior plan, and is it different for students with special needs?
  • Are the teachers and staff trained to meet your child’s needs? 
  • Is quality child care available before and after school? What are the costs and hours of care?
  • How does this school keep parents informed about school information and activities?
  • How much homework do students typically have each day?
  • Does the school offer extracurricular activities and for what grade levels?
  • Does the school incorporate art, physical education, and world language into the daily curriculum?
  • How does the school handle behavioral issues that interfere with classroom learning?
  • How does the school guide and prepare students for options in high school and beyond?
  • Does the school offer tutoring or other support if students need extra help?
  • Are there courses offered on campus that can be taken for high school credit (e.g., Spanish, algebra, or geometry)?
  • What kind of extracurricular opportunities are available to students on campus?
  • Does the school make an effort to provide activities that create a sense of community?
  • How do students perform on standardized tests compared to state or local averages?
  • What emphasis is placed on college preparation and is college counseling available?
  • How does the school support students who are struggling academically?
  • What are the average ACT/SAT scores?
  • Where do students go after graduation? How many attend four-year versus two-year colleges?
  • Does the school offer a variety of career planning options for non-college bound students?
  • Does this school have any school-to-work programs or specialized academies and tracks?
  • What dual credit or AP options are available at the school?
  • Does the school have a specific focus?
  • How do you support students with special needs?
  • What data shows success and who oversees this process?
  • What kind of extracurricular opportunities do students have on campus?
  • How do students perform on standardized tests compared to state averages?
  • Do you offer a free and reduced lunch program?
  • Is free transportation provided?
  • What can I expect my overall yearly costs to be?
  • Do they offer financial aid/scholarship? 
  • How do you measure individual achievement and progress?
  • Does the school have a specific focus? Does religion play a role in the curriculum?
  • What are the demographics of the school – (geographic, ethnic and socio-economic)?
  • What are your school’s measures to address Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on campus?
  • Does the school have regular access to Speech, OT, PT, Guidance Counselor and School Psychologist? Make sure you have an understanding of all the opportunities and if they are a fit with your child’s particular personality or requirements.
  • If your child will need a paraprofessional, ask what training is given to the paraprofessional.
  • Are the staff trained to meet the needs of your child? What is the staff/teachers personal experience in dealing with children similar to your child?
  • What classroom settings are available (Gifted, Gen ED, Self-Contained Classroom, 1:1 aide, etc)?
  • Do teachers have mechanisms in place to assist students with planning, organizing, and prioritizing?
  • What strategies does the school use to manage challenging behavior? How do they monitor if it is working?

Early Childhood Education

How to find and pay for Preschool and make the transition to Kindergarten

Ensuring that your child’s needs are met is an essential component of your child’s growth, success, and happiness in school.  As a parent, we encourage you to explore the steps involved in finding an appropriate school for your child and to better understand the process and services that will be provided.

Find A Preschool Or Early Childhood Center In Tucson!

Here is an easy-to-use preschool and childcare locator where you can find and explore childcare and preschools near you.

Arizona Child Care Resources & Referral
Quality First Arizona
 

What Does Quality Child Care Look Like?

What is quality child care and preschool? There are many elements that make up quality early care and education programs, including:

  • Health and safety practices that promote children’s well-being
  • Skilled teachers who turn everyday experiences into learning moments and give children the individual attention they need
  • Learning environments that nurture emotional, social, language and cognitive development, including age-appropriate activities, books, toys and learning materials
  • Opportunities for active play and hands-on exploration throughout the day
  • Regular feedback to parents on the development of their child

Visiting A Preschool:

A tour of the school will certainly give you the opportunity to get a feel for the environment and ask more in-depth questions. It is the best way to gain insight into the culture and climate of the school.  You will be able to observe both student-teacher and student-student interactions. You want to be open about your child’s needs and learning challenges, as well as what you are looking for in a school. While no school is “perfect,” there may be schools that are not appropriate or equipped to meet your child’s needs.

Questions For Schools When Exploring A Preschool:

  • What is the student-to-teacher ratio?
  • How is the day structured with activity, study, free play, nap time, etc.?
  • How do they prepare students for Kindergarten?
  • What measures do they use to assess children’s development and social skills?
  • Are the teachers and staff trained to meet your child’s needs?

Paying For Preschool And Early Childhood Education:

Pima Early Education Program Scholarship (PEEP) (Pima County)
PEEPs is designed to help eligible families pay for high-quality preschool within Pima County. The goal is to assist all income-eligible families who wish to send their children to high-quality preschool in Pima County.

Quality First Scholarships
Quality First Scholarships help low-income families afford quality early care and education for their young children. For more help, contact the Quality First Scholarships team at Valley of the Sun United Way: regionalscholarships@vsuw.org
(866) 973-0012

DES (Department of Economic Security)

The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) Child Care assists eligible families with child care costs to enable parents to participate in employment and certain education and training activities related to employment, or in certain other circumstances when parents are unable to provide care. Funding is limited. Click here to learn how to apply for child care assistance through the Department of Economic Security.

Head Start

Start and Early Head Start provides early education and services for Birth-5
years and their families who are at or below the federal poverty level.
Click here to learn more about and locate a Pima County Head Start Program near you.  

Transition to Kinder FAQ’S

To be eligible to enroll in Kindergarten, a child must be 5 years old before September 1st of the school year for which the child will be attending.
However, as per Arizona Legislature a child who will turn 5 between September 1st and December 31st can be considered – but this is up to the governing board of the school to admit. Arizona Education Code 15-851(c)

Arizona adopted a statewide Kindergarten Entry Assessment (KEA) as part of the state’s early literacy initiatives. All Kindergartens in AZ are required to give Kinder students the KEA within the 1st quarter of school.  If your child attends a preschool, speak with their teacher/director to inquire about your child’s developmental skills and readiness.  

Click here for more information on the KEA

The KEA provides a snapshot of a child’s development and is used to assess the five essential domains of school readiness:

  • Language and Literacy Development

  • Cognitive Development

  • Approaches to Learning

  • Physical Well-being and Motor Development

  • Social and Emotional Development.

The KEA is administered at the classroom level; aligned to Arizona’s standards; and is reliable, valid and appropriate for use with all children. The goal is to provide teachers a better understanding of each child’s progress toward meeting the standards and using the information gathered to impact children’s success.

Kindergarten is more rigorous than when most parents were growing up.  Children spend more time engaged in structured activities than prior times.  

  • A LONGER SCHOOL DAY:   Transitioning from a half-day preschool to a full-day of Kindergarten with structured activities requires energy and attention that some children struggle with.  Given their developmental stages – the longer day can be difficult to adjust to without a nap. 
  • TRANSITIONS:  Transitioning from one activity to another can be challenging and take some getting used to for children.  It can be difficult to stop a “play based” activity and transition into something more academic.    A typical kindergarten day is full of these transitions. 

SITTING STILL AND PAYING ATTENTION:  The Kindergarten day has become more structured with an emphasis on mastering academic skills.  This all requires young children to sit still and pay attention and engage for longer periods of time.  As we all know, this can be challenging for  5-7 year olds.

  • ESTABLISH STRONG ROUTINES AT HOME:   Routines help your child feel safe, in control and can foster self-confidence.  They also help your child develop a sense that they belong to a family – and that is comforting. 
    • BEDTIME ROUTINES: Try following the same or similar procedure each night.
    • FAMILY MEAL ROUTINES:   Create a process that empowers your child to be self-sufficient.  
    • READING ROUTINES:   Parents are encouraged to read to their child 15-20 each day. 
  • TELL YOUR CHILD WHAT TO EXPECT:  Your child may have lots of questions surrounding kindergarten. Talk to them about teachers, routines of the school day and expectations at school.  
  • ESTABLISH A FAMILY ROUTINE OF TALKING TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT SCHOOL EACH DAY:  Talking about school should become a daily routine for families.  Ask them to share one new thing they learned or something they did that was kind.   

Early Childhood Organizations (Pima County)

Head Start Centers

Head Start programs promote the school readiness of infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children from at-risk families. Head Start programs are available at no cost to children ages Birth-5 who are income eligible.  All Head Start programs promote the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of infants, toddlers, and preschool age children through a safe and developmentally enriching environment.

Head Start programs support children’s growth in a positive learning environment through a variety of services, which include:

  • Early learning and development: Head Start programs work with families, school districts and other entities to facilitate a smooth transition to kindergarten for each child.

  • Health: All children receive health screenings and nutritious meals, and programs connect families with medical, dental, and mental health services to ensure children are receiving the care and attention they need. 

  • Family well-being: Parents and families are offered program services to support family well-being and to achieve family goals, such as housing stability, continued education, and financial security. 

For more information on HeadStart.

Find Your Head Start (in English and Spanish) Use this to find your Head Start or Early Head Start Agency.


 

First Things First

First Things First is Arizona’s early childhood agency, with programs and resources committed to seeing all of Arizona’s children succeed in school and life.  First Things First focuses on the first five years of life.  In Pima County, programs include scholarships for early childhood education; literacy programs that show families how literacy starts at an early age; home visitation programs that provide voluntary in-home parent coaching from a trained parent educator a few times a month; and more. For more information go to: https://www.firstthingsfirst.org/resources/find-programs/

 

  • Parent Resources: There’s no one right way to raise a child, and sometimes parenting a baby, toddler or preschooler can be a challenge. You don’t need to be perfect. To help you do the best you can, here’s some parent resources for supporting your child’s healthy development and learning.

  • Free Birth to 5 Helpline:  is a free service available to all Arizona families with young children, as well as parents-to-be, with questions or concerns about their infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Kindergarten Readiness:  Kindergarten readiness is about what kids should know and be able to do when they start school.  Social-emotional development is as important as physical and academic skills.  No matter what your child’s age, there are things you can do to help them be ready for kindergarten.

Other Family Resources For Preschool And Kindergarten

Special Education Info

Resources for Parents of Students with Special Needs

The services and quality of care for students with special needs can vary greatly from school to school.  It is important to try to get a clear and honest picture of what special education services will entail and how the school will be able to support your child. 

VISITING SCHOOLS FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS:

A guided tour of the school will certainly give you the opportunity to get a feel for the environment and ask more in-depth questions. It is the best way to gain insight into the school’s culture and climate.  You will be able to observe both student-teacher and student-student interactions.  While no school is “perfect,” there may be schools that are not suitable or equipped to meet your child’s needs.

QUESTIONS TO ASK SCHOOLS:  FOR FAMILIES OF CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

  • What are the school’s/principal’s views on inclusion?  
  • Do students with special needs spend all or part of their time in self-contained classrooms?
  • What types of modifications and accommodations can and cannot be offered or provided?  
  • What is the school’s behavior plan, and is it different for students with special needs?
  • Are teachers and staff trained to meet your child’s needs?  
  • How are students identified, assessed, and evaluated at your school? 
  • How is progress measured and reported to parents?

STEPS TO FINDING A SCHOOL THAT BEST MEETS YOUR CHILD’S NEEDS: 

  1. IDENTIFY your child’s educational needs that will help them learn. 
  2. INFORM the school and ask what accommodations they can provide for your child.  
  3. DETERMINE if the school can provide an environment that meets all or most of your child’s needs.

 

Special Education FAQ’s

SOURCE: https://www.azed.gov/specialeducation/disability-categories/ 

In order to qualify for special education under the regulations that implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a child needs to be a child with a disability, meaning that the child has been evaluated as having a qualifying disability, and by reason thereof needs special education. [See 34 C.F.R. § 300.8(a)]

  • The child must have a qualifying disability as defined by the IDEA regulations;
  • The disability must have an adverse effect on the child’s educational performance; and
  • The child must need specially designed instruction in order to access and make progress in the general education curriculum.

For a list of disability categories under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) click here
To determine what professional evaluations are necessary in order to qualify click here
For important special education terms and definitions Click Here

SOURCE: https://www.azed.gov/specialeducation/child-find/
Arizona State Board of Education rules state that “identification (screening for possible disabilities) shall be completed within 45 calendar days after entry of each preschool or kindergarten student and any student enrolling without appropriate records of screening, evaluation, and progress in school, or after notification to the [school] by parents of concerns regarding developmental or educational progress by their child aged 3 years through 21 years.” [A.A.C. R7-2-401(D)(5)] “If a concern about a student is identified through screening procedures or through review of records, the public education agency shall notify the parents of the student of the concern within 10 school days and inform them of the public education agency procedures to follow-up on the student’s needs.” [A.A.C. R7-2-401(D)(8)]

SOURCE:  https://definitions.uslegal.com/5/504-plan-education/ 

A 504 Plan is a plan developed to ensure that a child, with a disability attending an elementary or secondary educational institution, receives accommodations providing him/her access to the learning environment. It specifies that no one with a disability can be excluded from participating in federally funded programs or activities, including elementary, secondary, or postsecondary schooling. The plan ensures that students with disabilities receive appropriate accommodations. The plan provides educators with information about the specific needs of their students with disabilities and practical strategies to be incorporated into their lesson planning. Accommodations include wheelchair-accessible facilities, adjustable-height tables, large-print reading materials, and increased time to complete assignments and tests.

Parent Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools
504 FAQ’s (from Arizona Department of Education)

SOURCE: https://www.azed.gov/specialeducation/504-accommodation-plans 

The IDEA is an education law – a grant statute that funds special education programs and entitles each eligible child with a disability to receive a free appropriate public education. Section 504 (part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973), on the other hand, is a civil rights statute that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The Arizona Department of Education/Dispute Resolution can investigate allegations that there has been a violation of the IDEA, but it has no authority to investigate allegations that there has been a violation of Section 504. Allegations involving possible violations of Section 504 are investigated by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), a division of the United States Department of Education. 

For more information on Section 504 and students with disabilities, visit OCR’s Section 504 FAQ.

Raising Special Kids : AZ org with resources for parents raising a child with disabilities (Birth to 26 years)

Autism Society of Arizona:  – List of AZ organizations to support parents.

Southern Arizona Network for Downe’s Syndrome – Supports families raising children with Down Syndrome.

School Letter Grades and Rankings

Understand how schools in Arizona get rated, measured and compared.

As you look into schools – you may notice different school ranking or rating systems. These methods vary in method and approach. The intention is to try to give you a snapshot of the school and how it may compare to other schools. Ratings are done by both the State of Arizona and outside organizations that attempt to help families locate and review schools.

STATE OF ARIZONA “A-F” SCHOOL LETTER GRADES 

The State of Arizona is required by Federal and State Law to measure school performance each year.  Arizona uses an “A-F” Letter Grade System to evaluate school performance. Arizona public schools (district schools and charter schools) will receive a letter grade each year.  

The Arizona “A-F” Letter Grade System is based on quantitative data collected by each school.  The letter grades that Arizona schools receive from year to year are largely based on standardized tests and quantitative data.

Arizona’s “A-“F Letter Grades are the State’s leaders best attempt to create a fair standard measurement to provide the parents the opportunity to see results in a simple and understandable process.  However, it can be difficult to include and measure ALL components of a school.  One needs to remember that the “A-F” letter grades (while well intended and well thought through), may not tell the “entire story” or capture the whole picture of a school.   

You can see the State of Arizona letter grades for all public schools online.
AZ Dept. of Ed. K-12 School Report Cards (State Letter Grades “A-F”)

For an FAQ on Arizona “A-F” Letter Grades

WHAT ARE THE “A-F” LETTER GRADES USED FOR IN ARIZONA?

  • Allow for school administrators to see areas that need improvement
  • Provide a yearly gauge AND yardstick for parents and school leaders
  • Measure proficiency and growth of students (via standardized tests)
  • Allows for a simpler and more understandable process for parents to compare school performance
  • For successful (A+ schools) can be a strong marketing tool
  • Allows for closure of charter schools that repeatedly earn low marks

OTHER OUTSIDE ORGANIZATIONS RATING AND RANKING SYSTEMS

Other school search or school locator organizations have established their own ranking or rating system for schools. On one hand, rating systems simplify the research process and give parents a yardstick to compare schools. Many things about a school’s culture and climate could be left out. At the end of the day – rankings should be one of MANY tools parents use when searching schools.

Private School Funding

Discover Arizona’s funding options for private school education or other related education expenses. There are two primary programs within the State of Arizona that give families the ability to pursue (and afford) flexible options to customize their child’s education. Through these programs, families can drastically reduce the cost of tuition (or in some cases, completely cover the cost of tuition).

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