Education beat: Lakeville school has called in the dogs

  • Article by: Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 13, 2013 - 6:05 PM

In this Jan. 14, 2013 photo, a student pets Junie, the school's "therapy dog," at Prospect High School in Mt. Prospect, Ill. Stress, anxiety and panic attacks are on the rise at many U.S. high schools, due to heightened academic expectations and troubles at home made worse by the shaky economy. So some schools are trying unconventional methods, such as therapy dogs, to help students cope.

Photo: Martha Irvine, Associated Press - Ap

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A Lakeville elementary school has been testing the use of canines in certain classrooms, with positive results.

At Tuesday’s Lakeville school board meeting, Eastview Elementary Principal Taber Akin and Holly Ryan, a school psychologist from Kenwood Trail Middle School, presented the results of several pilot studies recently conducted at Eastview.

The studies used trained “resource dogs” to help special education students, kids with reading difficulties and those with school-related anxiety.

One student in the study was a girl who struggled to make transitions from one activity to the next. After working with a dog, she “decreased the number of prompts [needed to transition] by 96 percent, which I’d say is pretty darn successful,” said Ryan.

In another example, first-graders reading below grade level were much more motivated when they practiced reading aloud to a dog.

“It’s just pretty magical. It really is,” said Ryan.

Board member Roz Peterson said she “looked forward to seeing a proposal, and I’m sure we’ll pass it with flying colors.”


More kindergartners enter school prepared

A new study by the Minnesota Department of Education shows that 72 percent of kindergartners were deemed ready for school, up from 60 percent in 2010.

Each year the department assesses school readiness of students during the first eight weeks of kindergarten. Areas include: physical development, the arts, social development, language and literacy, and mathematical thinking.

“Students who have access to high-quality early learning are more likely to start fully prepared and then stay on track academically,” said Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds were less likely to be fully prepared, according to the Minnesota School Readiness Study. This year, the Legislature approved $40 million in scholarships to help low-income families find high-quality early learning programs.


Charter schools get 20% of metro students

A study out this week shows that charter school enrollment continues to increase nationally and here in the Twin Cities.

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