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The kindergarten schedule should not be about what is best for school administrators or for parents, but about what is developmentally appropriate for our 4-, 5- and 6-year-old children. We are asking the Board of Education and administrators to make a decision based upon facts and research.
Here are the top 10 reasons to keep our current kindergarten program:
1. The current justification for five full-day K is the adoption of the Common Core Standards in Connecticut. The goal of these standards is to ensure that all students are either college or work force ready upon graduation. It is NOT a set curriculum. A professional comparison of our current K curriculum goals to the CCS shows Westport has been meeting or exceeding the standards for many years within our current schedule. There is no need for a change based on the CCS.
2. Research supports that childhood play is crucial for social, emotional and cognitive development and that imaginative and rambunctious "free-play," as opposed to games or structured activities, is the most essential type. This play is how children “digest” what they experience throughout the day. Free play has proven to increase children's long-term capacities related to meta-cognition, problem solving, social cognition, emotional stability and academic areas related to literacy, math and science.
3. Our current program is 30 hours per week, which is comparable to most full-day programs in the country. Below is a comparison of our current K schedule to the school administrations’ proposed schedule. It is clear the increase in academic minutes is not proportionate to the increase in free choice/recess. In fact, kindergartners would lose 180 minutes of free playtime per week in the district’s proposal.
Current K schedule (mins/week) vs. Proposed
Current: 415 Proposed: 600
Current: 150 Proposed: 225
- Science/Social Studies:
Current: 60 Proposed:150
- Instructional Total:
Current: 625 Proposed: 975
Current: 240 Proposed: 300
- Free play at home Monday and Friday (2 hours per day):
Current: 240 Proposed: 0
- Total Free Play Time:
Current: 480 Proposed: 300
4. On Mondays and Fridays, once our kindergartners leave, our K teachers assist in the other elementary classrooms, allowing for smaller group instruction in the larger-size classes. What is the cost, both financial and academic, of losing or replacing these 19 teachers? A cost analysis and contingency plan must be considered before making a change. Wilton is now backpedaling due to not doing a careful cost analysis before voting on full-day K. The community is in an uproar over at least $200,000 in unexpected costs revealed to be associated with full-day K.
5. More than 500 educational experts from across the country have expressed grave concerns regarding the CCS and have deemed them inappropriate as NO early childhood educators or professionals from grades K to 3 were on the committee that authored the Common Core Standards. Our school administrators MUST proceed cautiously if they plan to make any changes based on these standards.
6. Changes must be made based on results, not assumptions. Our children would be best served by taking time to gather the necessary quantitative and qualitative data provided by the testing before determining whether a change is required. Currently all evidence suggests that our children will exceed expectations, demonstrating that our current schedule is effective and well balanced.
7. It has been stated that all the other schools in our area have full day kindergarten; therefore, we should too. Westport has produced educational excellence with our unique schedule for years. This is the time for Westport to demonstrate that we are leaders in education not followers!
8. An opt-out option with no busing and where children are pulled from the class breaks classroom routine and has the potential to create stigma for those staying or leaving. It would deprive children of the specials offered on most afternoons, as academics are front-loaded in the mornings. This is not a fair or realistic option.
9. What are the risks of this change? That our children will burn out, grow to dislike school just as they should be learning to love it and lose out on the many intellectual and character building traits developed from free play. Also, other elementary grades will suffer due to the loss of smaller group instruction time provided by the kindergarten teachers on Monday and Friday afternoons.
10. The reward of keeping the current schedule is that Westport schools continue to be leaders in education by nurturing the development of well-rounded children. Children who have a love of learning and score well on state mandated tests. Children who grow to serve their community and are prepared for all the wonderful opportunities the Westport 2025 Global Initiative has to offer.
We call upon our administration to look to alternatives before rushing to make a potentially detrimental change. We propose an “Opt-in” program. Parents who feel that their children would benefit from remediation or enrichment may choose to have their child attend a kindergarten enrichment program on Monday and Friday afternoons through Westport Continuing Education. This program would be separate from the regular school day and would include extra reading, writing and math time for students. Students enrolled in the program would be bused home on the afternoon buses.
Those parents who feel their children would benefit from unstructured play or downtime at home, participation in extracurricular activities or attendance at the Y's after-school program can have their children leave on the earlier buses already provided on the extended days.
This is not about testing and mandates, working parents or non-working parents. This is about the children and what is in their best interest. It is a question of basic values.
Lisa Power Caroline Iannucci Brooke Petrosino, former Westport kindergarten teacher Denise Nahmias, former educator/kiteracy specialist Jill Mann Amy Saperstein
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