Lawrence A. Hunter, PhD
Last updated 5/17/2007 at Noon
Fallbrook children who plan to attend kindergarten at William H. Frazier during the 2007-2008 school year may have a chance to attend a two-year readiness program in advance. Principal Leonard Rodriquez and the kindergarten faculty at the school are considering a Preppy-K program for developmentally young children who are not ready for the academic rigors of kindergarten curriculum.
The program, proposed by Dr. Brian Jacobs, the director of educational services for the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District, will focus on oral language development, fine motor skill development and building school behaviors.
Preppy-K is similar to Head Start and Early Child Development programs.
“Kindergarten is no longer the ‘milk and cookies’ environment of socializing where children prepare for school,” says Diane Studinka, Chair of the Child Development Department at Palomar College.
For example, state standard English/Language Arts curriculum for kindergarten covers vocabulary development, reading comprehension, writing, oral language and listening and speaking. The mathematics standards entail number sense, algebra and functions, measurement and geometry, statistics, data analysis, probability and mathematical reasoning. Although the curriculum is presented for a young mind, some children have not yet learned to sit still for 10 minutes, use scissors with one hand or even hold a pencil or crayon.
While these skills can be taught, they cannot be readily learned if a child has not matured enough to retain the knowledge. Children who will benefit most from a Preppy-K program are those who have not yet learned colors, shapes or numbers; can’t write their names or read; may not be articulate; or suffer from separation anxiety, says Studinka. Further, California’s English Language Learners have yet another hurdle: they are learning two languages at the same time.
Studinka says that due to state standards and pressures to raise scores to comply with No Child Left Behind legislation, first grade curriculum has “pushed down into kindergarten.”
“Kids don’t get enough playtime, which is when they work on problem-solving,” Studinka says, referring to the building blocks children stack. She wishes the state would change the age criteria for entering school so that a child must be 5 years old by September 1 or earlier. Thirty-nine states have this policy. Since California children may enroll in kindergarten if their fifth birthday occurs by December 2, many parents enroll their 4-year-olds in kindergarten before they have matured sufficiently to learn. Only California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan and Vermont have cut-off dates between December 1 and January 1. As a result, without programs like Preppy-K, 4- and 5-year-olds are combined and exposed to academic challenges fully one-half the class may not grasp.
Former kindergarten teacher Charla Goldate, who now teaches fourth grade at La Paloma, says children develop maturity on their own and it can’t be escalated regardless of the need or the tactics used. Studinka agrees: “There are some children who are not even ready to read until age 8.”
In a memorandum dated April 4, Dr. Jacobs states that identification and selection of students is the first step toward implementation of the program. Children will be identified based on having a birth date after September 1, completion of the Gesell Development Observation assessment and the “Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten?” questionnaire completed by parents. Parents of those children who qualify will be notified that placement of their children is recommended and that the class confirms retention in kindergarten.
Rodriquez says the William H. Frazier program is still in development, but he is well-versed in its requirements. He administered a similar program in the Huntington Beach Oceanview School District. The Torrance Unified School District and Poway Unified School District also offer versions of the Preppy-K program.
Fallbrook has had “preppie” classes dating back to the early 1980s, says District Superintendent Janice Schultz.