ROCK FALLS – Riverdale Preschool Center set out to improve its early childhood learning environment.
The hard work of school personnel was validated when its program was it was informed it had been awarded the Gold Circle of quality by ExceleRate Illinois and the Illinois State Board of Education.
“Being recognized for our work and effort has been tremendously gratifying and makes us proud to be able to help many children have a positive start to their educational experience,” said Janelle Dykstra, a preschool teacher at Riverdale.
Programs are rated by degrees: from being licensed to meeting increasing levels of compliance, which are then rated bronze, silver and gold.
According to Dan Arickx, superintendent at Rock Falls Elementary School District 13, the teachers, staff and administration at Riverdale stuck with the improvement plan even during COVID-19 mitigations of the last two school years.
Principal Chelese Palmer explained how the district persisted, making incremental improvements a daily priority.
“Not only did all staff dedicate themselves to reaching the high standards of ExceleRate Illinois, we embrace the purpose of them to engage families and facilitate student growth,” Palmer said.
Establishing family and community partnerships are two of the Gold Circle benchmarks. In all, there are 15 criteria that have to be met, including the implementation of learning materials that adhere to both the Illinois Early Learning Guidelines and the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards.
One of the first things the district did was update its curriculum. Palmer said the new learning plan develops the intellectual, physical, social and emotional capabilities of the students.
Gold Circle also evaluates the school’s effectiveness in identifying and gaining assistance for students with disabilities or who may need developmental assistance. The most recent Illinois Report Card data shows that 23% of Riverdale’s students receive Individualized Education Programs, known as IEPs.
The program also had to provide additional training for its teachers and staff.
The Riverdale team engaged in professional development that aided them in identifying opportunities for improvement and skill enhancement, Arickx said.
The final component was establishing targeted outreach services to assist families.
Assembling the school’s documentation for ExceleRate Illinois was a team effort, Dykstra said.
“Preparing for a state evaluation is extremely stressful and time consuming, on top of an already challenging job,” she said.
According to the Illinois Report Card, Riverdale has an enrollment of 125 students, about 67% designated as low income.
Riverdale’s Preschool for All program operates two sessions, one in the morning one in the afternoon, serving students ages 3 to 5.
For information about the school, contact Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 815-625-5280.
Image 1 of 5
Riverdale Preschool Center teacher Janelle Dykstra teachers her class about insect communication Thursday. After much hard work, the Rock Falls school received the Gold Circle of quality by ExceleRate Illinois and the Illinois State Board of Education. (Alex T. Paschal - email@example.com)