Five-year-olds in Oakland are logging many more classroom hours these days than they used to. The switch to universal full-day kindergarten happened about a year before I came to town, but I understand the move was intended to help working parents while giving kids an academic boost.
Has it worked?
Carrie McKiernan, a Thornhill mom with an incoming kindergartner and a fifth-grader (who attended half-day), says the change has been a “mixed bag” for parents. While it undoubtedly helps many families with two working parents, she said, the new schedule — combined with ramped-up academic rigor — might be too much for some little ones to handle. She also says she has yet to meet a teacher who really likes the new structure.
In a letter to the Brad Stam, the district’s chief academic officer, McKiernan proposes that individual schools have more scheduling flexibility. Below is the text of the letter, which 25 parents and teachers from various schools “signed” electronically.
Share your experiences with full-day kindergarten by posting a comment or e-mailing me directly — or both.
Chief Academic Officer
1025 2nd Avenue
Oakland, CA 94606
Dear Mr. Stam;
We are writing as a group of concerned parents and OUSD staff to ask
that you reconsider the rigidity of the “all day kindergarten”
schedule currently in place. Our goal is to allow individual school
sites to implement hours, within reason, that best meet the needs of
the students, families, and staff, as opposed to a unilateral
structure that attempts to be a “one size fits all”.
While we understand the goal in all of this has been to improve the
quality of education for our kindergartners, and to support families,
we believe the all day structure has backfired for many students.
Feedback from parents and faculty who have experienced both part day
and full day schedules seems to be that there are not academic leaps
being made as a result of longer hours, but 5 and 6 year old students
who feel stressed and overwhelmed by school. Some feel the academics
have moved backwards, as the teachers spend more time focusing on
behavioral challenges resulting from children not yet ready for the
combination of hours and academics. The result is students feeling
unsuccessful at the outset of their school career, a marked increase
in stress behaviors in the classroom, and school sites that feel
powerless to make the changes necessary to help their students succeed.
We have no wish to ask you to return to a one size fits all solution
in the opposite direction, and ask that all schools return to part
day. We do ask that you allow the principals and teachers to design a
schedule that best suits the needs of the students, staff, and
community. In the spirit of the site based budgeting being implemented
at our campuses, we ask that you allow site based scheduling when it
comes to our kindergarten classrooms.
A small group of us would like to meet with you at your earliest
convenience to discuss what options could be available. We will
contact your office shortly to schedule a meeting.
Carrie McKiernan, Thornhill Elementary Parent