Kindergarten prep discussed with board

Of the 37 kindergarten students enrolled at Harmar, 56 at Phillips, 41 at Putnam and 58 at Washington –a total of 192 –108 kindergarten students starting the year in Marietta City Schools’ elementaries were not ready to sit and learn in a classroom.

That’s 56.25 percent of the first year students in the district who demonstrated in the first three months of the school year that either developmentally, socially or emotionally they were not quite prepared to absorb and process all that is expected to be taught in kindergarten.

“Academic readiness, social readiness, emotional readiness, all play into kindergarten readiness,” explained Superintendent Will Hampton Monday to not only the current members of the Marietta City Schools Board of Education but also a few incoming members and principals, special education staff and members of the community.

“It’s well known that boys especially mature slower than girls and we know that with the environmental factors and developmental factors, the variation is wide,” he added. “But we have felt for a long time that there is growth potential in those early stages (that) exceeds anywhere else. They are growing and developing at enormous rates.”

Hampton and Director of Curriculum Jona Hall were quick to point out that their report Monday did not mean these children were failing from the start.

“It’s not uncommon for parents to compare when their children of similar ages start walking… but they recognize that all children develop

differently, at different rates and in different spurts,” said Hall. “But unfortunately when we put them in that educational setting, it’s (currently) an expectation that they’re at the same level when they walk through the door.”

The pair said rather than address this disparity by delaying entry for a year, holding that child back after a year of kindergarten or even waiting until they score below the reading standard needed to move on from third grade years later, why not address readiness from the beginning?

Monday’s presentation to the board focused on how to address the students who aren’t ready, for whatever reason, to immediately hit the ground running.

“And this isn’t an issue just our district is facing,” added Board Member Russ Garrison. “If you look at the state’s statistics, only about 40 percent of the kindergarteners across the state are ready to meet that standard.”

Hampton proposed a framework for how to address the disconnect holistically across the district’s kindergarten students that envisions placing all 10 kindergarten classrooms under one roof.

“Right now our resources are scattered,” he said. “By consolidating the kindergarten you don’t have a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged kids in one building or another… (and) you empower your teachers of all the same grade level to work together to meet the needs of all of their students.”

He brought up the concept of a transitional kindergarten program, which when implemented in school districts in California he said significantly impacted not only pre-literacy and literacy skills, but also math concepts, problem solving and social-emotional skills.

Further discussion centered on the teamwork a one roof concept could foster as teachers draw upon each others’ skills, group reading levels more effectively between classrooms and even from the standpoint of the student, create a district pride and belonging from the onset.

“The move will create a common identity of Marietta Tigers,” said Hampton as he transitioned the discussion not only to how consolidating kindergarten would set the youngest members of the district up for success but also the rest of the elementary grades could benefit from a similar approach.

He spoke of rearranging each elementary grade level so that from the time a child enters the district to the time they leave, they will have remained with all of the students in their grade.

He said this would allow for those in need of additional services more time with the specialists they require and Hall added it would provide those on the brink of gifted and talented but not identified to be pushed further based on the surrounding academic bolster.

“Right now I cannot support (adequate) supplemental care in individual buildings, but (if) I can get them together in one place, now I have the flexibility to get these kids matched and met where their needs are,” Hampton explained.

Hampton and Hall said by rearranging where the grades meet, with Pre-K, Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten all under one roof, as well as realigning and renaming the buildings as a Marietta Early Learning Center, Marietta Primary School and Marietta Intermediate School, the district would not only consolidate and focus resources but also create a fluid transition into the Marietta Middle School.

The proposal, if approved by the next board, could also include shuttering, though retaining, one of the elementary buildings, Hampton explained.

“We have 650 fewer students (across the district) since 2003,” he noted. “In 2003 that was the year we closed two buildings. Now with 650 fewer kids, that is an entire (additional) building.”

That could potentially lead to a reduction in between $350,000 and $400,000, he said.

“We are looking at some tough decisions concerning administrative, supportive and teaching staff, that’s the bulk of the savings though there are cost savings in utilities etc.” said Hampton. “But hopefully we can add services as well. It’s about being able to provide the best education for all of our kids.”

No action on the proposal was taken Monday, further discussion with the incoming board and district staff will continue in the new year with additional communications with the schools possible in February if approved.

At a glance

Marietta Kindergarten Student Readiness:

¯ The state-mandated Kindergarten Readiness Assessment is completed by teachers in the first couple months of a school year and reported to the state by Nov. 1.

¯ KRA breaks down individual student readiness for classroom instruction at the state standard into skillset levels based upon developmental, emotional and social skills demonstrated.

By the numbers

Kindergarten:

¯ Harmar: 37 total, 20 not ready (Two of which considered young for grade having been born May-December.)

¯ Phillips: 56 total, 41 not ready (Seven considered young.)

¯ Putnam: 41 total, 17 not ready (Five considered young.)

¯ Washington: 58 total, 30 not ready (Six considered young.)

¯ Note: Current enrollment in the district’s kindergarten classes is 183 as of December due to movement after the start of the year.

¯Average class size: 18.3 students.

¯ Disparity between smallest and largest class: 2.

First Grade:

¯ Average class size: 18.9 students.

¯ Disparity between smallest and largest class: 6.

Second Grade:

¯ Average class size: 23.9 students.

¯ Disparity between smallest and largest class: 13.

Third Grade:

¯ Average class size: 24.4 students.

¯ Disparity between smallest and largest class: 6.

Fourth Grade:

¯ Average class size: 22.3 students.

¯ Disparity between smallest and largest class: 10.

Fifth Grade:

¯ Average class size: 24 students.

¯ Disparity between smallest and largest class: 8.

Source: Marietta City Schools Superintendent Will Hampton and Director of Curriculum Jona Hall.

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