Children need more play, not more school
The Solana Beach School Board’s recent decision to extend the school day in the Global Education kindergarten class without the input of those in the program came as a bit of a shock to me.
As a parent in the program, I do my best to support the school. In addition to volunteering, donating and sending my children to class well prepared and ready to learn, I make it a point not to question the actions and decisions of their teachers and school administrators.
That doesn’t make me feel special. I feel surrounded — in all of Solana Beach — by parents who are somewhere between highly and extremely supportive of our schools. We contribute, I think, to school/parent cooperation as best we can.
Addressing the role of educators in that partnership, the president of the Parent Institute, John H. Wherry, Ed. D., writes, “Parent involvement boosts student achievement. Communication with parents must be two-way. It is important to treat parents as partners.”
I think it’s evident that the parents in the Global Ed. community want to be part of decisions about the program. Neglecting to involve them is, if you believe Dr. Wherry, the same as impeding student achievement.
It’s clear that the decision to extend the kindergarten school day was not made in the best way. It may not be the best decision, either.
According to an article in the May 2 edition of the Solana Beach Sun, SBSD Superintendent Nancy Lynch says that “research shows that all children benefit from full day kindergarten.” While that may be true in the short run, the most comprehensive independent study on the subject I have found points to some negative long-term effects.
The study, in which the RAND corporation analyzes data on over 21,000 children, finds that any gains in achievement obtained from full-day kindergarten are eliminated by the end of third grade and that economically disadvantaged students do not receive extra benefits from the extra hours of school. It also concludes that by the fifth grade, children who went to a full-day kindergarten do worse in mathematics than those who were in a part-day program.
What I found most troubling, though, was that “children who participated in a full-day kindergarten program demonstrated poorer dispositions toward learning, lower self-control, and poorer interpersonal skills than children in part-day programs.”
The RAND study calls these “non-academic school readiness skills” and finds them very important for academic success. They resemble what child development specialists call “executive function.” The consensus among the experts seems to be that executive function develops best through play. My conclusion is that what our children need is not more school but more play.