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What other people think about Alternate Day Kindergarten

Okay, this letter isn’t really about Alternate Day Kindergarten, but it is about how the current Kindergarten system is pretty messed up.  This lady’s letter really saddens me, especially since it sounds like her grandchildren could really benefit from full day Kindergarten.  You can read it for yourself at:

http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20110328/OPINION02/703289997/0/OPINION

Alternate Day Kindergarten, Further Thoughts

In rereading my previous post on the problems with Alternate day Kindergarten, I realized that I missed a crucial point.  http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com/2011/03/03/my-beef-with-alternate-day-kindergarten/ One of the most critical problems with the Alternate day schedule is that you can’t take two days worth of reading instruction and cram them into one day.  Most five year olds just don’t have the attention span for that.

Half day Kindergarten is around three hours in length, but this varies from state to state.  In California for example, Kindergarten was closer to four hours long, and it was also against the law to require one Kindergarten teacher to teach two classes.  States and school districts also differ in the amount of instructional time they require for reading and mathematics.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that in half day Kindergarten children receive one hour and twenty minutes worth of language arts instruction.  With high interest materials, and an energetic teacher, most five year olds are able to pay attention for this length.  Usually teachers schedule reading at the beginning of the school day, when kids are fresh. 

Alternate day Kindergarten means taking two half days and smashing them into one long day, every other day.  But is it realistic to expect teachers to now schedule two hours and forty minutes of reading instruction for five year olds?  This could technically be accomplished, but most little five year olds would have checked out half way through.  And no matter which way you look at it, they are now receiving reading instruction less frequently (two days a week, instead of five), than on the traditional schedule.

So what can we we do?  School district officials are not changing to these schedules because they want to, but because they have to.  There is simply not enough money.  I personally, have written to my state legislators every year asking them to better fund our schools.  As a voter, I always vote to pass school levys and bonds.  As a parent, I homeschool my child on the off days, to make sure Bruce can reach his best potential.  I’m a true believer in Kindergarten, and the importance of teaching children to read as early as possible.  I hope that with better times, will come a return to the traditional half day schedule.  

My Beef with Alternate Day Kindergarten

Like school districts everywhere, our own school district has had to make some tough choices this year in order to operate on budget.  So starting last September, our district moved to an alternating day Kindergarten schedule in order to save money by not driving the Kindergarten half day bus.  I forget the exact number, but this decision saved around $180,000.
Alternate day schedule means that Bruce goes to school all day on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and about one Friday a month.  The alternative was to pay $3,000 and have Bruce go to school every day, all day, in the full day Kindergarten class next door.  We chose not to go this route, even though we could have afforded the tuition, because I was worried that Bruce would become bored and disruptive, since most of the Kindergarten academic curriculum doesn’t meet his needs to begin with.
Here are some of the many problems with the alternate day system.  By design, you have all of the families who can afford to pay $3,000 in one class, and the families that cannot afford this payment, plus the stay-at-home-mom families, in the other.  In the full day class next door, you have kids where all of the families could afford to pay $3,000, plus a number of children who are in daycare.  This is a very bizare dichotomy to have in a public school setting.
 
Then there is the issue of the alternating day schedule itself, or as my husband calls it “School once in a while.”  When you add in snow days, holidays, inservice days, and your kid staying home occasionally because he is sick, then you have a schizophrenic schedule which makes teaching kids the basics enormously difficult.  Keeping kids on a regular sleep and wake up schedule is also nearly impossible.  Why bother waking Bruce up at 6:45 each morning if he sometimes goes as long as eleven days between school?
Bruce’s teacher is caring, intuitive, and calm in the face of a very challenging situation.  When I have been in the classroom volunteering I have seen her teach quality lessons, that are designed to be very effective indeed.  But when kids are only attending school once in a while, how much can you do?
If the school district is going to stick with this alternating day schedule, then I think the district should start equipping parents to become de facto home-school teachers on the off days.  There could be optional actives, lessons, and homework packets for the children to complete on Mondays and Wednesday.  This model is being successfully used at a Charter school in Southern California that my cousin’s daughter attends . 
Coming from California, the alternating day schedule makes even less sense to me, because when I attended school busing was unavailable, unless your were being integrated across town.  So the idea of a busing schedule causing a district to make crucial decisions that adversely effect learning, seems ridiculous.  But I understand that our district has tough choices to make this year, and I very much respect our school district leaders and their integrity.