Summit School Early Learning Center

Program Overview

The Preschool Program at Summit School Early Learning Center is designed to provide a high quality preschool program that supports children who may be at risk of not progressing at a rate anticipated for potential success in kindergarten. Summit School Early Learning Center currently is awarded funding by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to provide a Preschool For All program, and The Department of Human Services (DHS) to provide a Title XX Program. These programs are offered at no cost to families.

Children are determined to be eligible through a screening process. The screening consists of a developmental screen using the Battelle Developmental Inventory, The Ages and Stages Questionnaire; which is a parent questionnaire to determine family concerns, and an eligibility criteria checklist to determine environmental factors that may impede development.

Summit School Early Learning Center was monitored by the State Board of Education in 2016 and was awarded the GOLD circle of quality from the Governor’s office of Early Childhood through the ExceleRate Program.

Class Day

The Preschool For All program meets five days per week, two and a half hours per day, for a minimum of 172 days. The Title XX Program offers families a choice of enrolling their child for either 2, 3, or 5 days per week. Additional days are offered as Parent Teacher conference days, and professional development days for staff. Each class session accommodates 20 children with one Early Childhood Teacher with a PEL in Early Childhood and one licensed paraprofessional per classroom. The adult to child ratio maintained in all classrooms is 1:10. These sessions currently take place in two classrooms with an additional commons area. A separate room for gross motor is also utilized by the Preschool program. An outdoor playground is easily accessible just outside the motor room and is surrounded by a retaining wall and locked fence for safety.

Daily schedules provide time for both child and teacher guided experiences. The schedule allows time for children to select activities from the choices teachers have prepared for the various centers. In addition, interactive small and large group activities are planned for and provided to children. Children have choices in both the planned activities, as well as, in their free thinking choices. Children guide the themes and activities that are presented through their interests and requests.


The Early Learning Center staff use a researched-based curriculum, the Creative Curriculum along with NAEYC-recommended practices to provide a developmentally appropriate program for at-risk children. In addition, a Zoo-Phonics curriculum is utilized to assist children in learning letters and letter sounds. The use of these curricula gives teachers a path to plan a program, which assesses progression of children’s abilities, and ensures that each child’s plan is individualized.

Curriculum goals address learning in all developmental areas, including physical, social, emotional, expressive and receptive language, and cognitive development for language arts, math, science, social studies and fine arts.

Curriculum content from various disciplines, such as math, science or language, is integrated through themes, projects and play. Through theme integration, children develop an understanding of concepts and make connections across disciplines. The curriculum plan is designed to help children explore and acquire key concepts in ways comprehensible and accessible to their ages.

A variety of strategies are used to help children develop math, science and social studies concepts, including concrete problems, block construction, measurement activities, cooking, classification and environmental observations, such as weather and bugs.

Language and literacy skills are developed through meaningful experiences, such as telling stories; reading stories and poems; dictating stories; seeing print in use; participating in dramatic play; communicating informally; and experimenting with writing, drawing, copying and inventive spelling. Summit School Early Learning Center’s current at-risk program provides children with the building blocks of language and literacy. A planned, intentional method of delivery helps students develop skills through meaningful experiences. Adults read to children daily, using a variety of methods, such as lap-time stories and large and small group guided reading. By seeing print in use and exposure to familiar words in print, students are encouraged to communicate informally, and experiment with writing, drawing, copying, and inventive spelling. Engaging books are provided to children to promote reading comprehension.

The use of the Early English Language and Development Standards, which encourage a language rich environment, is the foundation of the language arts component of the Center’s literacy curriculum. Teachers and Paraprofessionals use intentional language to determine the comprehension of English Language Learners. Teachers and Paraprofessionals assist children in increasing their language skills through conversations designed to elicit additional language and comprehension. Staff engages children in lively discussions that are designed to help a child construct a meaning of the spoken word through sounds, words, phrases and sentences.

The program has identified two benchmarks from each of the IELDS domains of language arts, math, science, social studies, physical, fine arts, social-emotional, and English Language Learners, in which to focus documentation and observations. This supports the teachers in acquiring data to be used to determine progress over time. Teachers use portfolio collections, tied to Early Learning and Development Standards, for reporting progress to parents. Teacher checklists and anecdotal information are also part of the child's portfolio.

Additional Supports

Teachers promote vocabulary use to give children opportunities to learn and understand word meanings. Materials are multicultural in nature and are provided in several languages to encourage English Language Learners and to promote acceptance of all students in the classroom. Children with IEP’s receive related therapies through coordinated efforts between Summit School Early Learning Center and the child’s home school district.

The Center supports districts by arranging services as specified in the child’s IEP. Summit School Early Learning Center provides speech therapy in the program, so children identified with speech concerns will receive additional speech therapy services within their free choice time. Speech therapists provide book readings along with small and large group activities in which all children participate, so those with identified speech needs are integrated and engaged and thus provide realistic opportunities to assess the children and assist the district in implementing IEP goals.

Specific Skill Development

Fine- and gross-motor skills are developed through play activities. Fine-motor skill activities include pegboards, stringing beads, construction sets, puzzles, drawing and painting, sculpting and cutting. Gross-motor skill activities include balancing, running, jumping and other vigorous movements. Children have opportunity throughout the day to move freely, using large muscles within indoor and outdoor activity areas.

Teachers receive yearly training in positive Early Childhood Behavior Management. Implementing a pyramid style of behavior management, teachers receive training in the IRIS Foundation Case Studies on behavior management. These Case studies utilize the Division for Early Childhood’s (DEC) Recommended Practices in providing guidance to early childhood professionals working with children birth to age 5 who have or are at risk for developmental delays. This also enables teachers to provide guidance to the families of these children to implement effective ways to improve a child’s learning outcomes and development. Case studies focus on the following units: Behavior Expectations and Rules, Developing Classroom Rules, Intentionally and Systematically Teaching Rules, Encouraging Appropriate Behavior, Considerations for Special Populations, Supporting Children with Significant Challenging Behaviors, and Partnering and Engaging Families. In addition, teachers receive yearly training on the Center for Social-Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFUL) training modules. Guidelines are implemented in the classroom, using activities such as the positive attention data sheet.

To further children’s development the program focuses on assisting children in learning self-help skills. These skills are developed through a variety of activities, including dressing, toileting, handwashing, eating, brushing teeth, and helping to pick up toys. Self-confidence and positive learning experiences are built by encouraging children to accomplish meaningful tasks, and to help them participate in learning successful experiences.

Lesson Plans

Lesson plans connect with identified benchmarks of the IELDS and are used to show progress over time. Lesson plans indicate individual child’s needs, and provide scaffolded learning and individual supports. Lesson plans align with the IELDS and specific GOLD objectives are included as they pertain to the activities provided for the students. Weekly staff meetings are held to first reflect upon the previous weeks lesson, and then to determine the next steps to take to build upon emerging skills of each child. Five children per week per session are identified in the lessons to indicate the students that require more individualized care. Over the course of the month every student in the class has been identified with specific modifications introduced to aid in their learning. Program staff identified IELDS benchmarks that are applied to activities, and are used to monitor a child’s growth over time in this specific area.

Lesson plan templates include a specific area to plan for vocabulary integration using the WIDA (world class design and instructional assessment) Early English Language Developmental levels of Emerging, Developing, and Bridging. Teachers plan specific supports for all children in the small group instruction and throughout the specific interest/center areas. GOLD checkpoint data is reviewed during the lesson plan analysis, and conversations revolve around the provision of activities that will aid children in their learning and development especially in the areas of literacy, math, and science. Additional activities are also included that embrace learning that is both child-directed and teacher-directed.

Parent Education and Support

Summit School Early Learning Center offers parent education and involvement opportunities to help strengthen the support of children at home and in school. The Center strives to foster parental involvement by offering many opportunities for parents to gain knowledge about their child’s behavior and education. Summit School Early Learning Center believes that the sooner a positive home and family environment is established, the higher the students’ achievement. Classroom teachers work in partnership with parents through ongoing communication, which builds mutual understanding of each child and his/her developmental learning abilities. Teachers listen to parents and seek to discover their goals for their child. Parental input is used in ongoing assessments. Summit School Early Learning Center recognizes the importance of both parents in a child’s life and promotes an environment of inclusion in all activities. Fathers are encouraged to volunteer their time in the classroom reading, helping with snack, or demonstrating specific skills. In all instances, accommodations are made for parent’s varied work schedules. Summit staff arranges conferences at the parent’s convenience.

Teachers arrange and participate in one home visit per child within the first quarter of the school year. Home visits provide teachers environmental context, which establishes understanding and builds trusting relationships between teachers and parents.

The program provides a monthly newsletter that showcases the learning activities that have occurred, provides information about upcoming events, and provides articles of information and interest to families. This newsletter is provided in both English and Spanish. Electronic and paper forms are available depending on the choice the family.

Incoming parents are surveyed for involvement preferences, including opportunities for committee participation, field trips, snack helpers, library helpers, classroom reading and special events. Parents attend an orientation meeting with the classroom teacher, to prepare them for appropriate expectations, and to receive answers for their questions.


Summit School Early Learning Center currently provides transportation to the neediest families on a limited basis. Homeless children are given first priority for this service. The next priority is given to those children who would not be able to attend without this assistance.