CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – For some, taking care of a classroom full of students by yourself can be challenging. We spoke with education professionals about a new solution that may lend a helping hand.
“What we found was that instructional support was greatly lacking overall in grades one and two,” said Dr. Monica Dellamea, Director of Early Elementary Learning with the West Virginia Department of Education.
Experts say early childhood education in West Virginia has fallen since COVID-19. First grade teacher, Brittany Lowe at Ruffner Elementary School says some of her students are just now in-person learning for the first time.
“Kindergarten to first grade transition, they come in and they need so much extra support. There’s only one of me and there’s 17 of them,” said Lowe.
Lowe says extra help is needed now more than ever, particularly in reading and socialization.
“Anytime that we can reduce the ratio of teacher to student is helpful. They can work more individually, sometimes even one-on-one, they can do smaller groups, it’s always helpful to have additional adults in the classroom,” said Henry Nearman, Principal of Ruffner Elementary School.
As of now pre-k and kindergarten classrooms have teacher aide options, but that’s where additional help stops.
“When children go from that kindergarten to first grade transition, they go from having two caring adults typically in the classroom to one caring adult,” said Dr. Dellamea.
Dr. Monica Dellamea says elementary school classrooms in West Virginia can reach up to 25 or more students, and one teacher is responsible for all of those needs, but the WV Department of Education proposed the option of adding an Early Classroom Assistant Teacher, or E.C.C.A.T. to all first and second grade classrooms. A classroom would be eligible for an E.E.C.A.T. with 12 students or more.
Dr. Dellamea says the process of becoming an E.E.C.A.T. will include an online or in-person training course after graduating high school or college. The Department of Education is aiming to start the first phase of this initiative over the next three years.