School District 123 Early Learning Program
Our Vision is to provide a high-quality preschool education for all children in an inclusive community where each child and family belongs and flourishes.
Our preschool classrooms serve a mixture of students of various ages and abilities. Services such as speech and occupational therapy are provided within the classroom for eligible students. Research has shown that both children with disabilities and children who are typically developing benefit from inclusive settings.
If you have any questions about the process outlined below, contact a member of the Early Childhood Department directly:
Click here to email Erica Parus or call (708) 952-4390
Click here to email Jennifer Taff or call (708) 423-8363
Early Learning Center
Q & A Virtual Meeting
Registration for School Disrtrict 123 Early Learning is an ongoing process. In order to attend the School Disrtrict 123 Early Learning Program, you must be a resident of School District 123, and we recommend all children are screened starting at 2 years 6 months of age.
If interested in the Early Learning Program, please complete the following steps:
*If you don’t have computer access, feel free to stop by the district office or your school’s main office as we can assist you with your online enrollment
Step 1: Please complete a new student application in Skyward here!
Step 2: Please follow the instructions in the email sent and provide birth certificate, residency, health forms and proof of income.
Step 3: Once all required documents are received, you will receive a link to an online screening (see below).
Prior to enrollment, all families must submit your child’s original birth certificate, Proof of Residency, a school physical, and income verification documents. All of these documents can be submitted by EMAIL TO REGISTRATION@D123.ORG or you can make an appointment online by clicking here, or calling 708-857-5020.
If your child is determined eligible for our program, based on availability, he or she will either be placed immediately or put on an enrollment waiting list. The waiting list is based on weighted eligibility criteria and student needs. Spaces are limited!
The purpose of the in person screenings are to assist with identifying children ages 3-5 years children who may need further evaluation for special education and/or bilingual services. Our team uses a Developmental Indicator for the Assessment of Learning (DIAL 4) screening tool. Children will be evaluated in areas of speech/language development, hearing, vision, motor skills, concept development, and social development. In addition, children with a second language will be screened by one of our ESL teachers.
For families that indicate another language is spoken in the home on the Home Language Survey, staff conducts a language screening. The Pre – IPT is designed for preschool age children to assess their English and assist in the initial designation as Non, Limited, or Proficient English speaking.
Curriculum and Educational Approach
Our approach to curriculum is guided by the fundamental understanding that children learn best through play and hands-on experiences. We use the Creative Curriculum and follow the Illinois Early Learning Standards as the framework for the preschool program, with a project-based learning approach, guided by Teaching Strategies Gold assessments and other data we collect throughout the day. The curriculum is designed to assist with the portfolio/assessment component of our preschool program. The instruction is individualized, scaffolded, and always centered around the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL). Our SEL framework stems from the Pyramid Model and is supplemented with Second Step Curriculum.
Each teacher holds a Professional Educator License certified by the Illinois State Board of Education, with an Early Childhood Special Education Approval, and an EL endorsement. All classrooms are supported by one teacher and a teacher's assistant. We have students with a higher-level of needs in 4 of our 5 classrooms with an extra paraprofessional. In the classroom, support staff includes the following related service staff: speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, and social worker.
Early Intervention Transition to Preschool
If your child is receiving Early Intervention services and it is suspected that your child might have a disability a transition plan is established between the early intervention agency and District 123 in order to provide appropriate services without interruption when the child turns three. For more information, please review the Family Transition Workbook.
Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)
Designed to provide specialized instruction and support for children with disabilities with a variety of educational and developmental needs. Placement and services are determined through the development of a child’s Individualized Education Plan. (IEP)
The role of a speech-language pathologist (SLP) in the public schools is to conduct screenings, assessments, and therapy for students with potential or identified communication delays and disorders which adversely impact their ability to learn. In the preschool classroom, the SLP's role is to also consult with teachers and classroom assistants to create a language-rich environment conducive to communication development, as well as to train staff with communication tools and strategies for use with students in the classroom.
Areas of Communications that we work on include:
- Articulation and Phonology: ability to procuce age-appropriate sounds and sequences in speech
- Receptive Language: ability to understand spoken language, including vocabulary, basic concepts, etc.
- Expressive Language: ability to verbalize thoughts and ideas; includes vocabulary, sentence formulation, and grammar
- Pragmatics: understanding and using non-verbal rules and conventions of communication (e.g., eye contact, taking turns, staying on topic, etc.)
- Fluency: ability to speak without excessive repetitions, stopping, blocking, or interjections
- Voice: ability to vocalize clearly with appropriate pitch and volume
English as a Second Language (ESL)
Young children benefit cognitively from learning more than one language. For ELLs, transitioning from their first language to English before they have a strong foundation in their mother tongue can have long-lasting negative academic and linguistic effects. Early childhood teachers should understand that acquiring more than one language does not delay the acquisition of English or interfere with academic achievement in English when both languages are supported. On the contrary, research on children who acquire English after their home language has been developed, shows that young children have the capacity to learn more than one language during the primary school years and that this bilingual ability offers long-term academic, cultural, and economic advantages. Neuroscientists and psycho-linguists point to the positive effects of learning two languages during the infant-toddler years and also to the human brain’s broad capacity to learn multiple languages. In addition, young children learning two languages have more neural activity in the parts of the brain associated with language processing. This increased brain activity can have long-term positive effects on cognitive abilities, such as those that require focusing on the details of a task and knowing how language is structured and used.
Young ELLs with extended learning opportunities in their home language consistently outperform those who attend English-only programs on standardized tests in English during the middle and high school years. Research shows the link between high-quality preschool programs and higher academic achievement in school, lower special education referral rates, higher rates of high school graduation, and increased college attendance. Implementation of appropriate education practices is especially important for PK ELLs. (Logan Square 2023 / Spanish)
School District 123 Early Learning Program utilizes a state criteria checklist to determine eligibility for the program. Upon completion of the screening process, a variety of options are available based on the results of the screening. Some options may include:
- A child maybe placed in a preschool program if eligibility requirements are met (or placed on the waiting list if the program is at capacity)
- Referred for further evaluations
- Referred to community preschools if they do not qualify for the program
Our programs offer diversity of experience and knowledge in pre literacy, mathematics, science, social emotional development and social skills experiences through learning centers, field experience and hands-on activities. Music and movement are important for the development of the whole child and their self-esteem.
The Illinois Early Learning and Developmental Standards provide the framework for instruction within the early childhood program. School District 123 adopted the Creative Curriculum which is aligned to the Illinois Standards and outlines specific learning targets for three and four year old children. Concepts and skills related to language arts, math, science, physical growth, health and social-emotional milestones are developed through instructional units. Children will acquire these skills through a balance of teacher-directed and child-initiated learning opportunities. Children are taught in small groups, large groups and individualized settings which promote independence, problem solving, cooperative learning and self-confidence.
Progress through the curriculum is monitored in order to ensure that all children are learning and acquiring skills/concepts being taught. A checklist from the Creative Curriculum is used to gauge each child's progress. Information from the checklists is reviewed by staff and used to guide instructional planning within the classroom.
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