Four- and 5-year-olds will be going to school for eight hours a day, as they start kindergarten at ground zero for school reform.
“It’s a long day, but there’s lots to be done,” said Jennifer Treubig, a kindergarten teacher at the Clarence Rogers School at 199 Wilmot Rd. in West Rock.
Treubig rounded up her new students on Friday, the first day of class for kindergartners in public schools citywide. (She’s pictured placing Class of 2027 mortar boards on the kids’ heads, marking the year the district expects them to graduate from college, during a press event at the school.)
Besides their new hats, some of which flopped to the ground amid wiggling, kindergartners had big changes in store for them.
Clarence Rogers is part of the Brennan/Rogers K-8 school, one of the city’s first two “turnaround” schools as part of a citywide reform effort that’s hitting classrooms this fall. Based mostly on test scores, Brennan/Rogers was chosen to undergo a dramatic transformation, including a 70 percent staff turnover and a new set of school rules.
Kindergartners will stay in class for nearly eight hours, longer than any other kindergartners in the district. Like the rest of the kids at Brennan/Rogers, their school day has been extended from 8:20 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. as part of the reforms. That’s an additional 1 hour and 25 minutes compared to last year.
Like other kindergartners across the district, the students at Clarence Rogers won’t get any naps.
New Haven is one of the only districts in the state to offer full-day kindergarten, Mayor John DeStefano noted at a press appearance Friday at the school. This is the first time the district is extending those kids’ school day to reach nearly eight hours.
The new schedule was put together by Brennan/Rogers staff in consultation with top school administrators. It aims to maximize “time on task,” and to add more variety of programming, said Jennifer Olson, assistant principal of Brennan/Rogers. Olson runs the Clarence Rogers half of the two-building campus. This year, her school is adding a kindergarten class, for a total of three classrooms serving 80 kids.
Some of the kids who showed up to Treubig’s class Friday are only 4 years old. The requirement is that they must turn 5 on or before Jan. 1, 2011. Because of the city’s robust pre-K program, 80 percent of students arrive in kindergarten having already attended pre-K. Others come from daycare, or straight from home. With 30 4-year-olds entering kindergarten this year, many need to learn how to follow rules before they can hit the books.
One little girl, untrained in the rules of the classroom, snuck up to the whiteboard while her teacher was talking Friday and started erasing. A paraprofessional pulled the eraser from her hand and sent her back to join her classmates, who were posing for a photo with the superintendent.
Basic classroom behavior—raising hands, sitting down, and be quiet when the teacher’s talking—will be only the beginning of a year of learning.
Assistant Principal Olson said the students face a range of academic expectations. They’ll learn to identify letters, rhyme, and count syllables. By the end of this school year, they students will be reading aloud from books, paying attention to punctuation, using different voices when they see dialogue in quotation marks, she said.
“This is a curriculum,” Olson said.
In a visit to Treubig’s classroom, Mayor DeStefano wondered aloud if kids would withstand the rigorous plans.
Eight hours “sounds like a long day” for kindergarten, he said. He said his wife, Kathy, who teaches first grade, thinks so.
Marcy Guddemi at the Gesell Institute of Human Development said she supports a longer kindergarten school day, with two conditions—rest and “learning through play.” Guddemi, who has a PhD in early childhood education, is executive director of the New-Haven-based not-for-profit, which provides research and information on the topic.
“If there is a proper rest period, there’s no problem with them staying all day,” Guddemi said. She noted that many kids stay in day care all day while their parents work.
One benefit of a longer day is it allows time for kids to “learn through play”—doing hands-on activities, manipulating concrete objects, being active, and using all of their senses, she said.
“When there’s a longer school day, teachers tend to allow and be able to do more of learning through play,” Guddemi said. “They don’t feel so compelled to stick to the paper and pencil.”
Throughout the day, Clarence Rogers kids will get one 20-minute recess period, and an hour-long period for gym, art or music, Olson said.
Olson said her kindergartners won’t be getting naps, per se—but they will get “periods of rest,” when the teacher dims the lights and plays soft classical music. The students don’t lie on the floor and sleep. They can read, sit quietly, or briefly doze off. The schedule for the downtime hasn’t yet been set. On Friday afternoon, kids at Clarence Rogers got a 15-minute period of rest at their desks, according to Olson. Most put their heads down. Some caught a wink.
While the long, napless day may be new for kindergartners, it isn’t new for Treubig.
At Elm City, students in grades K to 4 go to school from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., for a total of 8.5 hours. The schedule has been that way since the school was founded seven years ago, said Principal Morgan Barth.
“It’s a tough transition for a lot of kindergartners at the beginning of the year,” Barth said, “but they get used to it.”
The longer school day is crucial to helping urban kids catch up with their suburban peers, he said.
“As hard as it is to believe, our kindergartners are actually “behind” even before they’ve begun school,” Barth said. The main reason for the longer day is to squeeze in 3.5 hours of reading, he said.
The longer day is one emerging trend as New Haven’s low-performing city schools look to charters as a model for reform. The city’s other turnaround school, Domus Academy, is being run by a charter group. That school, which serves students in grades 6 to 8, will go to school from 7:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The change wasn’t possible in public schools until this year, after teachers ratified a landmark teaching contract that allowed schools to waive some work rules at select few “turnaround” schools.
More students may face longer days at other schools, too, as the city moves forward with the second year of its school reform drive, said schools spokeswoman Michelle Wade. Brennan/Rogers is one of a seven pilot schools were tiered in time for this year. In November, all schools are due to be graded and placed into three tiers. The lowest-tier schools will have the option of making major changes—which may include a longer school day.
Barth credited the longer day as “a primary factor” in boosting reading scores at his school.
“There are no shortcuts. It just takes more time reading, more time reading independently, more time with kids with noses in books,” Barth said.
“It’s totally worth a couple of cranky weeks until kids build up the stamina.”
Sure an 8 hour day with 20 minutes for recess for a 4 year old is a violatioj of the Geneva Conventions?
posted by: Thomas on September 7, 2010 12:30pm
With so many kids either overweight or suffering from ADD I hope they allow plenty of time to get out on The Yard. Something in the back of my mind is that the only reason they chose 8 hours is so that these programs are basically day-care. I’m interested in how the teachers react to the eight hour days I think they will tend to extend rest times before the kids do.
posted by: Swatty on September 7, 2010 12:30pm
“Olson said her kindergartners won’t be getting naps, per se—but they will get “periods of rest,” when the teacher dims the lights and plays soft classical music. The students don’t lie on the floor and sleep. They can read, sit quietly, or briefly doze off.”
Briefly dozing off is called a nap.
I’m really surprised that there is empirical data that shows such long class days with no recess or nap time for 4-5 year olds is the most productive way to get upstanding upwardly mobile future tax paying citizens.
Then again, I suppose one could find a study to support anything.
It just seems wrong. I feel sorry for these kids.
God forbid we do some of this teaching at home.
posted by: Threefifths on September 7, 2010 12:32pm
Another three card monte.What happens when the money Runs out for the program.Also what happens to people who will now have to pay someone to pick up there children beacuse of longer hours? Remember teachers can only hold the attention of students for so long and then they might as well be talking to the walls.
posted by: The Educated Brotha on September 7, 2010 1:10pm
I think everyone is missing the point here. The entire Brennan-Rogers schools has been reconstituted and under the new reform plan the whole school will have a longer day to dedicate more time to classroom instruction, bonding between staff and students and professional development. This should not be a surprise to any reader as it was a major reason many of the teachers previously at the school in 2009-10 did not reapply for their jobs (which personally says a lot about their personal dedication level to the school and it’s students)If the school has been identified as in need of more help I think we should all support the school, principal, teachers in this effort to improve learning. Let’s not think these children are walking around like zombies and exhausted. This is a working parents dream to have their child in school a little longer each day. The school buses STILL bring these children home at the end of the day.
posted by: Mb on September 7, 2010 5:57pm
Unless Educated Brotha taught in these schools before these new changes, he has little right to judge any teacher’s dedication. Maybe the teacher can’t stay the longer day as they have to pick up their child, maybe the teacher did apply but didn’t get picked, maybe the teacher was too exhausted from trying to teach kids who had little support at home, and 5 unsuccessful school years prior to coming to their class; don’t blame lack of dedication unless you know it’s lack of dedication.
posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on September 8, 2010 10:05am
MB, Lets change the scenario from a teacher to a physician and her’see what your comment might look like:
“Unless Educated Brotha has treated patients in this hospital before these new changes, he has little right to judge any physician’s dedication. Maybe the phsyician can’t stay the longer day as they have to pick up their child, maybe the physician wasn’t considered good enough to make the team at the new hospital, maybe the physician was too exhausted from trying to treat other sick patients; don’t blame lack of dedication unless you know it’s lack of dedication”
So the question is why do you have such a low opinion of the profession of teachers? If you went to the hospital to be treated for an illness, would you accept inferior treatement because the doctor had a family commitment, or didn’t feel like working a longer day? What if the doctor said, “I can’t treat you because you’re already sick and it would take too much effort on my part to heal you.”
Its a a double standard. If we are to raise the level of the teaching profession we need to first raise the expectations of performance. You don’t do that by insisting on 6 1/2 hour work days, summers off, and screaming about tying performance evaluations with student achievement.
posted by: common sense on September 8, 2010 10:18am
When is our society going to realize that the answer to it’s problems are not more govn’t programs but more parental involvement?
We can’t keep putting band-aids on these major problems thinking it’s going to work. Parents need to start investing their time into their children teaching them morals and values, and only then will we start to see a change in our children.
posted by: Kumbaya on September 8, 2010 12:13pm
@common sense: Parents need to start investing their time into their children teaching them morals and values, and only then will we start to see a change in our children.
And because of this, you are strongly in favor of the living wage proposals currently being debated in New Haven??
Because a parent whose wages are cut and then needs to take a second job to put food on the table is going to have a much harder time with the luxuries, like investing their time into their children….
posted by: Threefifths on September 8, 2010 2:56pm
If you think this is going to work.A friend in the press just send this to me.Check out the trailer.The movie is call Race to Nowhere.
Let’s remember that each child is a unique individual and learn at their own rates. Most teachers I know want to be the best that they can be and have each and every child know success. Small class sizes will help and not being tied to unrealistic time lines. Each child has their own learning style - one size does not fit all.
posted by: KP on September 9, 2010 12:43pm
Any effective teacher from pre-k to 12 is going to spend time at the start of the school year to cover rules and procedures before any academic learning can happen. I don’t agree that these children somehow need more discipline than others or that they need to sacrifice creative play and developmental nurturing in the name of academic rigor.
Besides, a longer school day does not necessarily mean more time on task. Without a genuine home/school connection children will continue to be as rebellious and illiterate as ever and the achievement gap will remain.
I wonder how many of these teachers and administrators would advocate for longer school days with no recess or naps for their own children?
posted by: joanne Yatvin on September 9, 2010 12:57pm
Sounds like child abuse to me. Have the authorities been notified?
posted by: LA K. Teacher on September 9, 2010 3:31pm
I think this is terrible. Since when are test scores more important than a child’s health and well-being, Are developmentally appropriate practices being looked on as out-of-date? Kids are already getting less sleep at home. We are compromising their physical, academic, and emotional health when we deny them adequate sleep, and setting the stage for more stressful family time when they finally get home. The #1 indicator of student success is a stable and harmonious home. Increased structured academics and less rest is a recipe for disaster for our youngest children. Read Brain Rules by John J. Medina if you are truly interested in boosting test scores and doing what’s best for kids.
posted by: Great Idea, Better Planning on September 9, 2010 8:11pm
I am a mother and a student studying Education. I have always been a supporter of longer school days. There is simply too much work to be done in a shorter amount of time. In addition, there are so many parents struggling to help their children with their homework, much of which is not taught in a manner that the parents have learned, further creating a struggle between the parent(s) and child.
That said, it does not appear that the planning for the breaks has been well thought out. There is much learning for these children to be done and yet they are still children. Twenty minutes of a break is not enough. Laws for adults require at least a 30 min. meal break and many employers give employees paid breaks. It seems as though the children should have at least three 20 minute breaks. Another option would be to provide longer recess periods and phase them down to a shorter period as the school year progresses and the students adjust. The key is to get the students on equal footing as their peers while still meeting a child’s needs.
posted by: Stephen Krashen on September 9, 2010 9:49pm
It was inspiring to read about plans for an eight-hour kindergarten school day at the Clarence Rogers School, with an academic curriculum.
Let’s push ahead and consider an even longer day.
A study published in the Journal of Irreproducible Results in 1991 concluded that a 21-hour school day is optimal, with continuous classes and no breaks, except for two breaks for meals and one lavatory visit. Among the many advantages would be fewer discipline problems and quieter classrooms because of sleep deprivation, which “lessened the students’ rebellious impulses.”
The researchers also intend to do studies to determine whether food is really necessary for school children.
I think a full day Kindergarten program is an important movement we need to change around the country. Children today need to hone their social-emotional skills, academics, as well as non-standardized content areas such as the arts and music. Going to these subject areas once a week, which is common in half day Kindergarten, is not enough time to help children see that they can be integrated into their curriculum too. Parents will find other places and resources for their children to go to instead of a structured school environment. The consistency of being with the same group and working through problems and academics is advantageous for the learning process. I think 8 hours is extreme. However, a full day of Kindergarten with standards based expectations in future grades is a need most public schools have not been able to afford. A sad reality for our children. Erika Burton, PhD Stepping Stones Together, Founder http://www/steppingstonestogether.com
posted by: Dr. FTS on September 10, 2010 8:12am
I beg to differ. A similar study in the New England Journal of Quackery in 2000 showed that only 8 out of 10 children will spend 4 hours a day or more watching tv, while less than 6 out of 10 children will actually be arrested by their early teen years for drug possession, petty theft, and other misdemeanors.
Furthermore only 3 out of 10 teens are directly exposed to hand gun violence while in their teens.
With this mountain of irrefutable data staring us in the face, how can you argue for what amounts to educational imprisonment of children??
posted by: joanne Yatvin on September 10, 2010 8:45am
I know Steve’s post is satirical, but I’m not sure about Erika’s, which should be. Children already have too much of their lives structured by adults who believe erroneously that what’s good for them is good for kids, too.
Children develop their social-emotional skills best through imaginative play, and they certainly don’t need more doses of academics than the schools are already forcing down their throats. As for being with the same group of peers, there are limits to the benefits of that, too. It would be better to spend some time with other groups and individual children who have different backgrounds and interests.
posted by: Sarah Caldwell on September 10, 2010 7:27pm
It’s not that easy to sleep in low-income areas, so the schools ought to be encouraging naps for these kids. It’s no wonder that they come in behind and stay that way.
posted by: n on September 12, 2010 1:35pm
As a teacher in New Haven, I deal with many uninformed, illiterate parents who put their child’s best interests LAST. Yet, as evidenced by this reform (the latest of Mayo’s BS initiatives, after so many of his previous ones failed in his first 17 years).
These are parents (allegedly) who ignore letters sent home from school, fail to ensure their child completes and returns HW consistently, consistently bring their child to school late, and do not attend parent-teacher conferences (and fail to contact the teacher at the teacher’s request to reschedule).
These parents make excuse after excuse, yet they are handed everything, from free breakfast and lunch to supplies for their child. They, ironically, also are the first to complain downtown.
Know what must happen? The law must be changed to hold parents accountable regarding their child’s education, just as teachers are held accountable by the law. EDUCATION starts at home!
... So they threaten to go to the news—so what?!!—they will expose themselves as incompetent and incapable of caring for their own children.
Where is the law holding them accountable?
posted by: n on September 12, 2010 1:39pm
Gee, I thought reform meant change starts at the top?
Under New Haven’s plan, I see teachers being held accountable; they’ve been transferred, dismissed and placed on plans of improvement.
However, administrators who received poor reviews in the parent-teacher-student survey (results are online at NHPS.net) remain in their posts and UNPUNISHED.
Further, Dr. Mayo is in his 18th year as Superintendent. Why is he allowed to remain, after being at the helm of one failed initiative after another?
Just call him at Gateway and ask him whatever happened to his “Five Bold Goals”!!!!