With great dismay, I read the article on KTAR radio’s website by reporter Griselda Zetino on Oct. 26 entitled “Drop in Arizona students enrolled in kindergarten raises concerns.”
As the superintendent of the Pendergast School District located in the West Valley cities of Avondale, Glendale and Phoenix, we, as educators, believe kindergarten is essential for our scholars to succeed. It is the foundation and lays the groundwork for a successful path to a quality educational experience for years to come.
Our school board and administration have provided full-day kindergarten in all of our 12 schools, paid for through our budget override. Since the state only funds half-day kindergarten, districts like ours need to find additional funding, and we are fortunate our community has supported this effort that has paid huge dividends.
With the pandemic upon us now approaching eight months, many parents are choosing to postpone kindergarten at a rate of 14% lower enrollment across the state, according to KTAR. People may think, “Well, it’s just kindergarten, and what could they possibly learn?” Here are some of the standards from the Arizona Department of Education that all Arizona schools are required to teach in kindergarten.
These are merely the English language arts, not taking into account math, science, social studies, technology, fine arts and social/emotional learning. Arizona’s English Language Arts Standards work together in a clear progression from kindergarten through 12th grade. These are the general headings and do not take into account the 29 additional sub-headings for learning under each standard.
•Reading Standards for Literature.
•Reading Standards for Informational Text.
•Speaking and Listening Standards.
We believe kindergarten is essential for all students in Arizona, especially now. A fact parents may not be familiar with is that if families choose to keep their child out of kindergarten this year, when they enroll next year, they will be placed in first grade and may fall far behind their peers in learning.
In Pendergast District, we are using distance learning programs at this time, and each student is provided with a Chromebook and internet connectivity if needed. We have a tremendous support system in place for not only academic learning but also social and emotional support for our students and their families.
The pandemic has been stressful for everyone; however, we are doing all we can to ensure our students are feeling connected, are learning and growing and will be prepared for their future.
Since Arizona implemented Move on When Reading in 2013, students must show proficiency in reading in third grade in order to be promoted. By beginning in kindergarten and focusing on the necessary skills, learning will scaffold and students will achieve this goal.
We are hoping to reduce the number of 14% decline in enrollment in kindergarten by encouraging families to enroll today in school. Giving early learners the opportunities to learn, make friends, gain new skills and be ready to take on challenges is paramount to a successful graduate as they matriculate in later years. In this day and age, children need every advantage to ensure a bright future. Let’s not let the number of a 14% decline in enrollment define us, as this is a problem with an easy solution.
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux is superintendent of Pendergast School District. Contact her at email@example.com.