Dear Moms, Dads, Grandparents, Guardians, and All Concerned Citizens,
My name is Mrs. Lakshmi Frechette. I am a dedicated mother raising my five small children, a CT state certified educator (k-6), a former teacher in the Southington Public Schools (grades 3 & 5), and a life-long resident and taxpayer in the town of Southington. I am writing this letter on behalf of our youngest students.
My Concern: Our Superintendent of Schools has recently proposed to the Board of Education a full-day kindergarten program for all students with the intent to have it implemented next school year. There are many layers of discontent, frustration, and sadness that this proposal has caused for me and my family. At the heart of the matter, I believe half-day kindergarten is a program that highly regards child development. It is a program that allows youngsters to grow at a rate that is consistent with their emotional maturity. Unfortunately, today's child has become the unintended victim of increasing parental erosion due to rapid social change and continually rising expectations. I am writing this letter to unite us in the belief that the world does not need 4, 5, and 6 year old youngsters who have been trained to perform. What the world needs is young children who can think creatively, problem solve, and cope with stress. How do we achieve this as a community? We must allow our kindergarteners their rights to childhood. Kindergarteners need more family time at home, and not longer days in school. They need more unstructured free-play, and rich language development from their loving homes. There is no substitute for the family unit in the development of a young child's cognitive and emotional well-being.
Professional Research: After reviewing extensive research on half-day vs. all day kindergarten, there is no conclusive evidence that suggests an all-day kindergarten model surpasses the academic and social success of its students. In fact, it has been well documented in professional journals that the benefits to be gained going from a half-day program to an all-day program in a middle-class suburban setting are minimal, and evaporate between 1st and 3rd grade. In addition, attendance in full-day kindergarten has been negatively associated with students' attitudes toward learning, self-control, interpersonal skills, presence of anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, and sadness. What has never been obliterated in educational and psychological research is the importance of the family and the need to increasingly strengthen and maintain the bonds among parents and their children.
Common Core State Standards: As we look forward to the coming years, our state is in a transition period to comply with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). However, the CCSS and implementation of full-day kindergarten do not go hand-in-hand. Understand, the CCSS have been designed to consist of FEWER learning standards, as compared to its predecessor the CT Standards, so as to allow more in-depth exploration for teaching and learning. I encourage you to research the crosswalk documents on the State Department of Education's web page. In comparing the CCSS to the CT Standards, overall, there is a 92% standards match in Mathematics, and an 80% standards match in English Language Arts (ELA). What is most noteworthy form the crosswalk analysis is that most of the matched standards are at the SAME GRADE LEVEL. Also, recognize that under CT ELA Standards, Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Standards were matched to Common Core Kindergarten Standards. In other words, what was once taught in preschool programs under CT Standards, will now be realigned into the kindergarten classroom under the Common Core State Standards. Therefore, 38% of CC Kindergarten ELA Standards are introduced LATER in the school year than under CT Standards.
Half-Day Success: Some folks are under the impression that the half-day kindergarten program creates a rushed atmosphere for our youngsters and leaves much to be desired. However, speaking from my own personal experience, I can attest to the inherent quality of the 1/2 day kindergarten model. I have had the opportunity twice over, within the last four years, to evaluate the half-day program on a daily basis for two entire school years. In addition, my third child is currently enrolled in the half-day kindergarten program. What I can tell you is that in the 1/2 day program while the children are engaged in learning, they do color, paint, sing, play, and socially engage with their peers, - this is all incorporated into the creative atmosphere of instruction implemented by our talented teachers, paraprofessionals, and school volunteers. I must applaud our kindergarten teachers who continue to be successful in their instruction. Squeezing meaningful instruction into a two hour and 42 minute day is demanding work. Yet these demands are appropriately placed- on the trained professionals, and will not be met with the same success if placed upon our youngest students. Most children as young as 4, 5 and 6 do not have the physical strength, attention span, nor emotional maturity to meet the demands of a full-day program. Please think back to your child's needs as he or she entered school, (or his/her needs as a beginning student) - every child is unique, these individual needs should be addressed by our Superintendent of Schools and not chosen one program over the other.
District-Wide Success: Remember, the kindergarteners in our community are thriving and continue to advance to first grade with great success, all on the instruction of half-day programs. Quantitative data analysis based on CMT, CAPT, and DRG comparisons have proven that Southington students (across all grade levels) are consistently marking their territory at "goal" level, and in the "advanced" level far above the "proficient" level of No Child Left Behind. This quantitative data illuminates the success of our curriculum, efforts of our teachers, and most importantly the abilities of the students in our community.
All-Day Shortcomings: Lastly, as I see it the substantial flaws associated with the administration's proposal of a full-day kindergarten program is three-fold. First, the administration is carelessly operating on a gut-level approach in shaping our youngest students' academic and social experiences. The fact that there is no conclusive evidence that suggests an all-day program surpasses the academic and social success of its students should be reason enough to maintain the 1/2 day program. Moreover, extensive research has clearly documented the negative affects impressed upon youngsters exposed to full-day K. Therefore, to force such a program on the entire kindergarten population with no fair option being afforded to families who want the half-day experience for their children is unreasonable. Second, the administration has openly admitted that their all-day proposal has not increased minutes in academic instruction across content areas. The new 6.5 hour day has been stretched to allow flexible time for Developmental Play (detailed as centers, play-time, and nap-time), an extra snack time, lunch, recess, and specials have been increased by ten minutes. This begs the formidable question: Does this all-day K proposal blur the lines between public school instruction and daycare? Third, the administration has yet to share with the public the quantitative data analysis that establishes a basis to move exclusively to an all-day kindergarten program. Where is the district-wide data indicating the level of reading, writing, and mathematics achievement ALL of our K students have achieved by the end of the school year? Educational programs are initiated based on quantitative data that reflects the need for such change. It seems absurd for the administration to ask the Board of Education to make a decision prior to this information being presented. The administration has communicated to the Board that K data and the framework of a typical all-day will only be made available after the Board adopts the all-day proposal. We must encourage all 9 Board members to care enough to seek this information prior to making a decision. This decision will forever affect Southington's youngest student population. We should all care enough to examine the research and claims made by the administration before we allow full-day K to take place for all of our youngest students.
Join The On-Line Petition: I have started a written petition to preserve the Half-Day Kindergarten program and have found there is an overwhelming number of concerned citizens who do not agree with the current proposal of All-Day Kindergarten. More recently, I have created an on-line petition to maintain the Half-Day Kindergarten program. It is my vision that this on-line version will reach a greater audience to get involved. Please take 30 seconds to join me in my effort to petition the Southington Board of Education by visiting this website:
To join the petition, simply click the link provided and add your signature.
You can also access the petition through Change.org.
Click on browse.
Under the Popular Topics heading click Education.
Then in the Search Education petitions bar type:
Southington, CT Board of Education
This will also link you directly to where you can add your signature.
Your support of the half-day kindergarten program will challenge the administration and Board of Education to address the basic needs of our youngest students, instead of being part of the downfall by diverting attention away from what most needs to be championed: continued opportunity to strengthen the bonds between our youngest children, their families, and their childhoods.