Split reading sessions are the right choice
Original post made by Tim Hunt on Jul 19, 2012
Logically, small class sizes should result in better instruction. However, when the money shrinks, class sizes will growthere's little choice for school boards. Personnel costs consume more than 80 percent of the budget and remember that 20-student classes add 50 percent to the expenses.
So, faced with 30 students in elementary school classrooms, district officials reinstituted the split reading. It was the standard approach for decades before Wilson used class-size reduction to avoid sending more money in the California Teachers Association members' salaries.
It is the right move. For kids who already are reading entering kindergarten, it will not make too much of a differencethey'll do just fine.
But, for those who are not reading at grade level, it's absolutely critical they get the individual help to climb toward proficiency. A number of years ago, I volunteered in a one-on-one tutoring program through the Pleasanton Rotary with fourth graders at Donlon School.
This was when third grade classes were 20 students and then jumped by 50 percent or more in fourth grade. Seeing the challenges faced by the below-average readers made it clear that significant intervention to help those students was necessary or they were going to suffer throughout their educational career.
And, it is far more effective the sooner it takes place for below-grade level students.
For nervous parents, I get the challenges with day care. Those must be secondary to the necessity of doing what works educationally. Giving students who struggle with reading the opportunity to improve is critical because there's no more important skill for their educational careers and their lives thereafter.
When the London Olympics open, some Bay Area residents will be wondering what could have been.
A team of Bay Area leaders put together an excellent bid for the 2012 games a decade ago. They unified the three major cities and identified a series of excellent venues that would have staged a remarkable Olympics.
Former long-time Pleasanton resident Helen Mendel was a key part of that group as its marketing director.
When the United States Olympic Committee got down to the final decision in 2002, New York City, coming off the shock and tragedy of 9-11, received the nod and the Bay Area 2012 effort became a memory.
Helen will be among the close observers, while former Olympian Ann Cribbs will be in London. Helen and Ann have staged a number of events since 2002 using the Bay Area Olympics organization umbrella.
on Jul 19, 2012 at 8:54 am
Sandy is a registered user.
Tim, I agree that the staggered start plan for K-3 students is well intentioned, and will help to offset the negative effects on students learning to read that are inevitable with increasing class sizes.
As a Barton tutor, I agree that early support for struggling readers is key.
I also want to point out that reading support is just as important for advanced readers as it is for struggling readers. There are children who come to K with a basic grasp of reading, and by the beginning of second grade are yearning to leap into chapter books. In a classroom of 30 students, they can't get much attention from their teachers to help them continue to develop reading skills at their own pace. With staggered reading, more advanced readers can have more time to ask and answer questions about books that challenge and interest them. Teachers will be able to differentiate instruction with the staggered reading groups, and all students benefit from teaching that "meets them where they are."
What I found troubling about the implementation of staggered start is how it was announced. The letter in the backpack on the last day of school definitely caught parents of K-2 students by surprise (and many teachers as well). The district must improve its communications with the public (including both parents and residents without kids in school). The announcement letter was just one more example of the need to do better.
on Jul 19, 2012 at 9:02 am
Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.
Any thoughts on the impact to the rest of the curriculum with the loss of 45 minutes/day four days a week? Cutting back to what we had 20 years ago, after having added to standards and expectations over that time, seems to be a step in the wrong direction when, as a nation, we are already behind in at least math and science.
I would agree the roll out of this plan was handled poorly. There also was a lack of answers on issues of schedules for siblings.
on Jul 19, 2012 at 10:48 pm
Holly Sanders is a registered user.
I agree that the split reading groups are the right choice in our present day of never ending budget cuts from the state that fund the majority of our schools, and the standards remain the same in spite of the forced increase in class sizes. While there is some work to be done on the childcare front (and PUSD has sent out information that shows there is progress in this area), the benefit to all children- regardless of ability - is worth the sacrifices families will need to make. While there will be 40 minutes less of instruction per day, PUSD is still over the required minutes required by the state. And, this small instructional time allows for the reading focus, but also makes it easier for the teachers to have some quality time to know their students better - what their strengths and challenges are, what motivates them, etc. - and this plays out during the remainder each day and the whole school year.