Common Core query looks at lengthening kindergarten school days
Kindergarten teacher Bethany Koehler talks with a student during class at Beech Street Elementary in Manchester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
According to the Seabrook group's presentation, "The new Common Core State Standards are written for a full-day kindergarten program. This means that our kindergarten students will enter first grade unprepared for the rigors of a first-grade curriculum."
Efforts are being made to inform the public about Common Core, but questions and concerns remain.
While doubling the time children spend in classrooms may make it easier for them to meet those and other kindergarten standards, Feneberg said, Windham teachers have invested plenty of time and energy preparing for new goals within the half-day program.
The question of resources
A school district's available resources may factor into any decision on whether to go with a full- or a half-day program. In Windham, there's no available space. In other districts, money might be an issue.
"Even if parents wanted it, we may not be able to accommodate a full-day program," he said.
Conrad said educators haven't done a good job of explaining the Common Core initiative, fueling apprehension about it.
The Common Core initiative was launched by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to create a clear set of standards for public schools throughout the country. Teachers and education experts from all 50 states are said to have been involved in designing Common Core. The Common Core website and the National Governors Association do not identify any of the actual participants.
"The Common Core Standards are voluntary, but the Smarter Balance assessment tests are mandatory for all schools, and the tests are based on the standards," said Pearl. "So, how is that voluntary?"
One question is whether Common Core will eventually lead to a mandate for full-day kindergarten in all school districts.
"Teachers can choose to use it if they want," said Gage. "They may take bits and pieces, but teachers are what make it happen in the classroom."
Like Seabrook, the Winnisquam Regional School District - which includes the towns of Tilton, Sanbornton and Northfield - appointed a committee to look at expanding kindergarten to full day. There was enough support for the idea to put the question on the school district warrant in 2012, where the proposal was defeated by a 103-91 vote.
Some pointed to a study from Head Start that said most of the gains resulting from early childhood education level out by second or third grade. Others supported a full-day program because the scheduling was better suited to today's economic reality, which in many cases requires two incomes to support a family.
"The school board met and chose not to move forward with the idea because of economic reasons," said Kuras.
"We probably mentioned Common Core when we were talking about expanding kindergarten, but that wasn't the primary motivation," she said.
"I know there's opposition to the standards, but I haven't seen it here," she added.
"Some districts might not have the space to accommodate a full-day program, and that cost can be difficult, especially for some of the smaller towns," said Peavey.
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