Schools test program to help victimized kids

DENVER – When a child has experienced has something horrible, getting them to care about school can be a challenge. That's why Austin Bash is part of a pilot program trying to find a way to reach kids academically.

"A lot of our kids come here with histories of abuse and neglect," Bash said.

He is a special education teacher at the Sister Daniel Stefani K-8 School located at Mount Saint Vincent in Denver. This school is one of six facility schools statewide testing a new program called i-Ready for the Colorado Department of Education.

"It really paints a picture of where our kids are at," Bash said. "It really helps us tailor lesson plans in a classroom to specific needs."

Bash says for many of these victimized kids, some have had a very uneven education over the years. And, he says i-Ready is an efficient tool for teachers to use to see what learning gaps exist in math and literacy while also trying to re-engage them in academics.

"This way, we can assess kids 10, 15 at a time and then we can implement those (lesson plans) into our classroom," Bash said.

Ann Michaels-Weinburger is the Director of Individualized Education Programs at the Stefani School. She says having accurate assessments performed several times a month is a vital tool for teachers trying to help victims of abuse, neglect, and crime.

"Therapy is education. Education is therapy," Michaels-Weinburger said. "We can't here in our environment separate those."

She says this program can allow teachers to real-time evaluations of a child's skills.

"Kids are transient as they move from place-to-place. This information follows them," Michaels-Weinburger said. "The kids get a more consistency of instruction which is really important."

Bash says a lot of the students at his school have limited experience with technology. He says this program helps them pick more skills than just math and reading.

"The simple functions of using a mouse and opening files and things like that," Bash said. "A lot of our kids come and they don't have that experience."

Michaels-Weinburger says it is also a good way to teach their students responsibility and manners.

"Therapeutically, for our students, it helps them learn to regulate their behavior, make good decisions," Michaels-Weinburger said. "It is a way of teaching them more about themselves, more about how to respond to stress, frustration, anger, whatever, because that's what we're all about."

If the pilot program is deemed successful, the Colorado Department of Education may fund the i-Ready program at all 60 facility schools around Colorado next school year.

"The success has been huge. We've had a lot of kids make a lot of progress," Bash said.

He says anything to get these young victims interested in school again is important.

"The biggest reward that the teachers have at this school is sending a kid back to public school," Bash said. "That's the most rewarding experience we have as teachers here."


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