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Santa Rosa schools OK development of early kindergarten program

By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa City Schools moved forward with a transitional kindergarten program to be launched next fall by approving the hiring of an administrator to develop curriculum for the state-mandated program.

At its meeting Wednesday, the board voted 5-2 to spend $22,600 for an administrator to work the remainder of the school year to establish what the new transitional kindergarten program will look like.

The program is of critical interest to parents whose children would turn 5 just after the start of the school year in September.

Currently, students who turn 5 before Dec. 2 can enroll in traditional kindergarten, but those students are considered “young 5s” because they actually would be 4 years old when they start school. Currently, California’s late birthday cutoff means that students well past their 6th birthday can be seated next to 4-year-olds in kindergarten.

The law calls for creation of pre-kindergarten classes for students born between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2 beginning next fall. In 2014, when the program is to be fully implemented, those born between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 would be eligible.

But board members expressed interest in opening the three-month window next August rather than doing a gradual implementation over three years.

“I think it’s really important that we get the program up and running, not only quickly, but most effectively,” said board member Donna Jeye, who supported hiring an administrator to guide the development.

Trustees Larry Haenel and Ron Kristof voted no, saying they support transitional kindergarten but calling the hiring of another administrator while class sizes have grown larger across the district a morale issue for teachers and other staff.

Board President Frank Pugh said establishing such a program presents an opportunity for Santa Rosa City Schools to draw students from other districts, which because of their small size might be forced to run transitional kindergarten classes in the same room and with the same teacher as the regular class.

“I would assume small elementary districts are going to be in a real jam,” he said. “I think there is an opportunity here that we can capitalize on that other people just can’t.”

Trustee Bill Carle said the state-mandated program, signed into law last year by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, could violate equity requirements by restricting entry to only those children now considered “young fives,” born in September, October and November.

“As much as I love the program, I have a serious concern,” he said. “I can’t opt my March baby into the transitional kindergarten.”

“There is a real bind here and I’m not understanding it. This can’t be the first time this has been raised,” he said. “Maybe there is an incredibly easy answer.”

Board members directed district officials to make legal inquiries into the equity issue of limiting the program to only certain students.

Similar programs have been offered for years in the Mark West, Healdsburg and Windsor districts.

Staff writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.





3 Responses to “Santa Rosa schools OK development of early kindergarten program”

  1. Four points and some questions to ponder:

    1. There seems to be an assumption that children born the same month are the same developmental age. There are children at age 6 who are developmentally like some others who are only 4. My nephew at 2-1/2 was speaking in complete and complex, totally intelligible sentences, and when he was 5 his best friend – who was a near-perfect match – was 2 years older than he. While he is gifted, others are delayed. I have seen a girl of nine fit in quite well with preschoolers, as she was a slow but steady learner who certainly would not have kept up with third graders. (Fortunately she was short and so did not stand out as being much older.)

    2. A child-centered approach, similar to that of Dr. Maria Montessori, has no trouble mixing ages together, as each child is allowed to progress naturally at his or her own pace. Children in such classrooms do not obsess over who is “smart” and who is “stupid.” Children have much to learn from and to teach others who are older and younger than they. When each student is valued for himself and learning is valued for its intrinsic benefits – rather than to please the teacher or appear smarter than the other kids – the age gap is not a problem, but an asset.

    3. Grouping children together by age and then rank-ordering them by grades or some other scheme (such as, “above average,” “average,” and “fails to meet expectations”) may in fact be quite harmful. Rather, let us celebrate milestones of accomplishment irrespective of age – the boy who has mastered counting to 100, the girl who has just read her first book all the way through by herself, the small group who together built a little theater for puppet plays, the child who beat her own previous record for running the track, the student who not only has memorized his multiplication tables but also can prove that 5 times 6 equals 30 by demonstrating the sum of 5 added to itself 6 times. Although we adults might wish that children learned everything as quickly as possible, if one child does not learn to read until age 11, is that as important as that the child loves to read and will continue for the rest of her life? Or shall we label the child a failure at age 7 so that she is afraid to bring attention to herself by trying at a later age?

    4. I am not saying that we should entirely throw out age targets. However, these should be used as measures for our own teaching, in which case it is appropriate to group the children’s progress into statistically-meaningful measurements. What is not appropriate is to say that any one child is deficient because she has not yet learned something or that another is superior just because he already knew it before his first day of class. After all, the purpose of school is to teach children, not to label them. If a child hasn’t learned something, work harder at teaching it in a way suited to the child’s understanding. If a child “fails” a test, help the child to master the learning so that she can “ace” it the next time. Don’t give up on her and move on to a subsequent lesson for which she is unprepared.

    Questions: Are Kindergarteners expected to sit still, watch the teacher lecture, and then all fill out the same worksheets the rest of the day, or do they do a variety of hands-on activities suited to a variety of developmental levels? Is not every child somewhat unique? Can’t we group kids who need to learn the same thing together for THAT LESSON regardless of age? Why is a mixture of ages a problem?

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  2. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Agenda 21, agenda 21. Socialdisease, I am really tired of agenda 21. How about area 51? I believe in area 51 and the space alien they are holding there. It makes more sense.

    As for kindergartens for young fours, this doesn’t mean more teachers or classrooms (though I believe in that too, since children are our future), this means that the classes will be reorganized to put less mature children into classrooms that will help them mature instead of getting lost and left behind just because of they are younger. I think this is marvelous. We were thinking of holding my young grandson back a year to mature, but now feel more confident in sending him to school. Childcare for him is $1000 per month.

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  3. Social Dis-Ease says:

    This is Agenda 21 too.
    More social engineering from the New World Order.
    Early indoctrination to communitarianism,
    collctivism, socialism, more ‘global warming’ brain washing, reality is a consensus, Gaia crap.
    Later on in their education there won’t be any Constitution, Bill of rights, and Declaration of Independence.
    When you don’t introduce the concept of unalienable rights that lays the ground work for a socialist/totalitarian society wherein the serf is trained to think that his rights are given by the state.
    Between this dark curriculum and toxic shots that they say are mandatory, they screw up our children right from the start.
    Incidently, the ‘no shots-no school’ thing is incorrect, there is an opt out clause that they usually don’t tell parents about.
    Very credible information from a diverse spectrum of experts has been increasing regarding the correlation between autism, and eventually alztheimer’s associated with these controversial vaccines. The repercussions can be like a box ox of chocolates, you don’t know what your child might get. Evidently the metals in shots tend to migrate to the brain over time.
    Many of the disorders manifesting in our population are not occuring in societies that aren’t administering shots.
    I am not an expert.
    It has been said that ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ isn’t from what Saddam did to them, but largley as a result of mandatory vaccines given to our troops.
    There is a LOT of information on line and elsewhere regarding these two important subjects.
    I prefer to look at studies NOT funded by any government grants.
    It is hard for me to understand ANY circumstances in which it is appropriate to administer mercury in a childs body.
    I do know that one of Agenda 21′s stated goals is to reduce the population by 85%.
    A woman named Charlotte Iserbyt who was the senior policy advisor in the Office of Educational Research has written a book called The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. She also speaks extensively on Youtube.
    It pains me to say it, but these are pretty heavy times, that I sometimes compare to Europe circa 1930.
    These times require our engagement and involvement.

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