FAIRFIELD — Perish the playhouses. Poof goes the Play-Doh. Back to preschool go the building blocks.
Kindergarten is an academic endeavor these days, with youngsters expected to meet pages of California Content Standard criteria before they move on to first grade. Cutting, finger painting, pasting and building Play-Doh creations aren’t listed on the California Department of Education’s website as acceptable knowledge to move on to the next grade. Reading, writing, language arts and math skills are on that list.
In order to achieve the goals of kindergarten, children should be prepared upon entry; armed with knowledge that includes basic social and academic skills such as following directions, color names, scissor skills, some letter names and sounds, sight words, coloring without always scribbling, counting between five and 10 and some number recognition, said several Fairfield-Suisun School District teachers.
Linda Owings, a kindergarten teacher at David Weir Elementary School, said some parents are surprised about what kindergarten is all about, which is reading and writing, she said.
“We don’t have painting . . . we don’t have blocks . . . we don’t have a playhouse,” she said. “It’s first grade.”
To help parents prepare their children for kindergarten, a Fairfield-Suisun Adult School Parent Education program, with the help of local kindergarten teachers, has been offering a Kindergarten Readiness Roundup targeting local Title 1 schools but open to all district children heading into kindergarten.
The first took place Feb 2. More than 90 families from as far away as Vallejo and Napa participated in the program that had children moving between stations, testing various abilities such as fine and gross motor skills as well as the ability to sit and listen to a story. The last event will take place Saturday at E. Ruth Sheldon Elementary School, 1901 Woolner Ave.
Najah Rabie brought her 4-year-old daughter, Rama Dirhalleh, to be assessed Feb. 2. Rabie said the assessments were good for her because they allowed her to see where her daughter’s weaknesses lay before Rama enters K.I. Jones Elementary School in the fall. While Rama did fine with gross and fine motor skills, Rabie discovered that her daughter needs work with numbers and letters.
“She knows the ABC song but didn’t know how to identify (the letters),” Rabie said.
The two aren’t wasting any time. In the two weeks since the assessment, Rama learned five letters, her mother said.
“It was good,” Rabie said of the experience. “It showed me where Rama stands and what she needs to achieve before kindergarten.”
Cheryl Stumbaugh, the department chairwoman of the Parent Education program, would like to see more families take advantage of the testing, which also gives the school district an early head-up with regard to speech and learning problems.
“Parents don’t understand the importance of being ready,” said Donna Alway, a Parent Education preschool teacher. “Kindergarten used to be play and it’s not (anymore). It’s curriculum based.”
Peter Rosenfield, who co-teaches kindergarten at Sheldon Elementary School with his wife Mary Rosenfield, said the academic trend actually began 17 or 18 years ago when he started teaching kindergarten.
“There was a shift toward literacy in kindergarten,” he said. “Much less cutting and pasting and more pre-reading phonetic awareness skills (plus) number and letter skills. Now we’re working on reading comprehension and language development.”
Sheldon was one of a handful of district schools that already did some readiness assessments at kindergarten registration. That trend toward academics in kindergarten was why the school started testing, Peter Rosenfield said.
“We wanted to educate parents that this was a different game now and if (the children) know the kinds of things expected in advance of coming in, they will be a success,” he said.
Despite the longtime trend toward academics, Rosenfield said he sees the two extremes when school starts: those who are well prepared and those with little or no exposure to the needed skills.
Stumbaugh and Alway also did kindergarten readiness testing in their preschool classes in the Parent Education program, but they were just hitting a small segment of the population going into district kindergarten classes. Not all district elementary schools were doing assessments like those at Sheldon. Stumbaugh wanted a more uniform format.
She went to the Rosenfields for input and then to the district office for approval. The decision for the first year was to target Title 1 schools – an area with the most need, Stumbaugh said. The roundup is paid for by a $100,000 First 5 Solano grant. Pending the outcome of this year’s event, another $200,000 – to be used also for other programs – is waiting in the wings to possibly make this a yearly event expanded to include other schools.
For more information on Saturday’s event or to register, go to www.solano-spaceprogram.com.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.
A snippet of California Content Standards for kindergarten
- Counting to 100 by ones and tens.
- Understand “greater than,” “less than,” and “equal to.”
- Know simple addition and subtraction with objects and word problems.
- Describe measurable attributes of objects such as length or weight.
- Demonstrate understanding of various concepts of time.
- Identify and know two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes.
- Recognize and name all upper and lower case letters of the alphabet; be able to print “many” of them.
- Read common sight words.
- Read and understand “emergent-reader texts.”
- Form regular plural nouns by adding “s” or “es” to words such as dog and wish.
- Demonstrate understanding of capitalization, punctuation and spell simple words phonetically.
Source: California Department of Education