To the Editor:
I'm writing to you on behalf of the 520 members of the Bridgewater-Raritan Full Day Kindergarten Facebook group. This group was established a year and a half ago out of concern and demand for changes in our current kindergarten program in Bridgewater-Raritan. As I'm sure most of the public already knows, this effort has been growing and has gotten a lot of attention in the past year and a half. In fact, many of our members have begun speaking up and submitting Letters to the Editor themselves out of frustration. As both a mother and an elementary educator, I found myself highly motivated towards this cause. Unfortunately, the recent actions of our current board of education, have me second guessing the level of importance they are placing on the demand for change.
Last year, our BOE made it a goal to come up with a feasible plan to implement full day kindergarten by 2017. As of this week, this goal has been pushed back to 2018 (http://www.brrsd.k12.nj.us/boe.cfm?subpage=1353). Myself and my co-chair of our BRFDK group have reached out and been actively engaged in conversations with our BOE for the past year and a half and feel that this change is literally a slap in the face of the parents who are demanding change.
Ask the state NJDOE and they'll tell you, kindergarten teachers who struggle the most are those who teach in half day programs. How do I know this? As an educator, I was able to reach out to educators across our state and NJDOE employees to learn more about a program they have been running over the past four years for kindergarten teachers and administrators to help promote NJ's Kindergaten Guidelines (http://www.nj.gov/education/ece/guide/KindergartenGuidelines.pdf). Kindergarten teachers who teach half day are overwhelmed between class size and the demands of assessment. In fact, even teachers in full day programs are concerned about meeting all the standards and other requirements, especially when they have large class sizes. This is not an urban/suburban/rural problem or high/low income issue…this is problematic everywhere.
As a mother of an elementary student and one who will be moving into the public schools before I know it, I am deeply concerned about the stress this puts on children.
For all the critics, nay sayers and those who feel this is "unnecessary" I urge you to review the kindergarten guidelines (http://www.nj.gov/education/ece/k/) which, by the way, are built upon a FULL DAY frame work. Also keep in mind, our district, as the rest of the state does, abides by the recently instituted Common Core. The common core was created to level the playing field. How can the common core be common when the playing fields are not level? Districts across NJ and all over our county have already made the move towards FDK and yet our district pushes it back. It's not only embarassing, it's ridiculous. Our district is behind the eight ball, that's for sure!
I'm calling upon my community to seriously look at this cause and realize that this is not the world it was was two years ago! Your children who went through the schools were NOT under the Common Core, were NOT under the newly revised kindergarten guidelines. As a first grade teacher myself, I know what I'm talking about. Kindergarten has been dubbed "The New First Grade" often in the press and the media for a reason. Half day kindergarten in this day in age doesn't cut it, and it won't be long before we see the stresses wearing on our teachers and students.