Saturday, June 27, 2015

Kindergarteners - C'mon Kids, Get with the Program

 Latest articles about kindergarten.

Washington Post's Answer Sheet - A Very Scary Headline about Kindergarten
Washington Post's Answer Sheet - Report Debunks "Earlier is Better" Academic Instruction for Young Children
Boston Globe - Is the Common Core Killing Kindergarten?

“When we require specific skills to be learned by every child at the same time, that misses a basic idea in early childhood education,” she says, “which is that there’s a wide range to learning everything in the early years.”

Given the wide developmental variation in young learners and the evidence that early reader advantages fade, the report concludes that a kindergarten literacy standard will simply crush the spirits of the late bloomers, linking school with “feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and confusion.”

Follow-Up on WaKIDS assessment story
I asked the district about the WaKIDS issue where half of the incoming kindergarteners don't start school on September 9th but on September 14th in order for parents and students to meet with their kindergarten teacher.

This idea is not in itself a bad idea.  It has been done for several years.  But I have to believe it is a hardship for some parents to not have their child in school for three days, especially if they have other children also starting school. 

Here's what the district said (with my comments):
The Seattle Schools’ Department of Early Learning sends a welcome letter to all incoming Kindergarten families. This has been the practice for several years. This is a major effort because we try to make the letter as informative as possible.  We had confirmation from the mailing service that about 5,000 Welcome Letters were sent June 5th. Unfortunately, upon receiving a Kimball parent  letter to Director Patu, we learned that families had not received the letter until this week. We called the mailing company and they discovered that their staff had unaccountably not delivered the mailing to the post office until 6/18. 

Here's hoping there's some kind of partial refund on that work by the mailing company.

WaKIDS (Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills) is required for schools receiving state funds to subsidize Full Day Kindergarten. The State also allows schools with smaller Free/Reduced Lunch populations to “opt in” to this program; the intention is that all schools statewide will participate by 2017-18 when FDK is completely state subsidized. So far we’ve had 4 to 5 volunteer participants each of the past two years. 

I don't know which schools are the volunteer ones but maybe TOPS?

WaKIDS includes three components:
 1) administering Teaching Strategies Gold (an observational “whole child” developmental assessment used to measure kindergarten readiness skills); 
2) collaboration the neighborhood PreK community; and 
3) Family Connections visits to establish a positive relationship with new Kindergarten students and their families. Family Connections visits are held prior to or at the beginning of the school year.

In 2013, the Washington State Legislature passed HB 1723, allowing WaKIDS schools to use up to three school days for the Family Connection at the beginning of the school year without requiring a 180-day waiver. For more information, see http://www.k12.wa.us/WaKIDS/pubdocs/PrincipalSeries%202_FamilyConnection_May2015.pdf . While all WaKIDS schools must conduct Family Connections visits, each school decides whether it will start Kindergarteners along with the rest of the student body or use the delayed start option.

That answers the question of how these students are able to lose the three days (out of the required 180 days).  But, if you read that last sentence, schools decide if those kindergarteners lose those three days. 

The format and time frame for each family connection is designed at the school level. The recommendation is for about a 30-40 min meeting; interpreters are arranged as needed, and the family may include any important figure in the child’s life. Some schools offer school day meetings while others offer a mix of daytime and evening timeslots. Some schools partner with neighboring community centers to offer childcare for Kindergarten students, while others partner with their on-site before and after care providers. The three-day delay start has been an option for participating WaKIDS schools for the past three years.

So each school is basically designing the meetings to meet the requirements under WaKIDS and their needs. That childcare may be there if they have a nearby community center or on-site care.  That's still three extra days of childcare for a parent to pay for at a site that a child might never have been in before.  Gotta say, for the start of school for a kindergartener, that is a lot for a child to take in over three days. 

Families are kept in communication about these programs in a variety of ways, including letters from their school, a Welcome Letter from the Early Learning Department, phone calls from Kindergarten teachers, robo-calls from the Principal, postcards from schools, and communication via district/school level website venues. We communicate the list of 3-day delayed start schools internally to many departments, including Communications, Enrollment, DoTS, Nutrition Services, Transportation, and others. Externally, we send the list to community partners (e.g. the City’s Department of Education and Early Learning, Seattle Public Library, Child Care Resources, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, SOAR, child care programs, etc.) to reach as broad an audience as possible.

The feedback from schools and families has been very positive about the Family Connections component of WaKIDS.


Anonymous said...

I'm assuming McDonald is one as well.

I have to say, if I was a parent with a rising K and just found out my kid would start 3 days late for a 30-40 minute meeting, I would be livid. The school year and school day is a complete mess for working parents to start with. What if you worked, had your child in camps all summer or just were done daycare just before Labor Day? There are no camps available for those few days. Not to mention the excellent transition you're getting there. Hi, meet this new teacher, but oh hey, go to this other random place for triaged care for a few days. How does this help the start of school, already a fairly stressful period for many kids?!?

NE Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

NE Parent, it baffles me as well.

Anonymous said...

I am a kindergarten teacher in a high poverty WAKIDS school. To clarify, we do visits with families the first 3 days of school and during that time families are generally using the same childcare options they did during summer. It's basically a 3 day late start. We also meet on weekends and evenings and basically work very long days until the official start of school. We meet wherever families want to meet (home, cafe, park, school) with the goal being to ease the transition for families and children. Most families I meet with are new to the country or have been traditionally underrepresented in education advocacy. It has been a huge success. Right away we have significant time with each family, who can tell us 1:1 about anything they need, dream, etc. We can connect with the student and begin to create a bond. It is slowed-down time, and very special to me. I'm going to venture to say that most readers of this blog live in a different world than my families. A delayed start may not work as easily for you, but it really is a support to many others, so please keep an open mind. Thanks.

K Teacher

Anonymous said...

K teacher, I am glad that this is enhancing your ability to connect with and teach your students. That said, I have an incoming kindergartener and I am scrambling to find care for that week. My child's preschool ended at the end of this past school year. Seattle Parks & Rec is not offering anything for the week of 9/7, nor is there anything offered at the school my son will be starting at. To not know that I needed to find care for this week until so late is extremely, extremely frustrating. I'm a teacher myself (HS, not in SPS) so it's not really possible for me to take that week off of work to stay home with him. I have been absolutely horrified by the lack of clarity and communication from SPS since we started the enrollment process.