To the editor of THE EAGLE:
In response to Brian Sullivan’s rant (Feb. 20) on Pittsfield’s "rash" decision to move the starting age for kindergarten to Sept. 1 by 2015, I’d suggest that he is wasting his talents writing for The Eagle. His constant looks back at the way things used to be obviously have qualified him to be an expert in the field of early childhood education. Unlike those of us who have worked in the field for most of our careers, he obviously has studied all of the research and spent years in the classroom with preschool children to make the determination that children who are nearly a year younger than some of their peers are developmentally ready to achieve on that same level.
Mr. Sullivan uses his childhood experiences as proof that all children can succeed in kindergarten, despite the age that they enter. Apparently that is all the research that he needs, despite multiple published studies that indicate that very young children are not physically, emotionally or developmentally ready to enter kindergarten. While some children will succeed, many will struggle.
Mr. Sullivan mentions that these children can always repeat a grade if educators are willing to risk "messing up their self-esteem." I’m surprised that someone with Mr. Sullivan’s expertise in this field hasn’t read the additional published research that indicates the children who repeat grades have a much higher drop-out rate, along with other problematic behaviors directly linked to self-esteem issues.
I agree with Mr. Sullivan’s contention that there are parents who help prepare their children for kindergarten, but family and economic structures have changed since his boyhood. Families struggle for survival and children are arriving in kindergarten without some very basic skills. Add to this the developmental issues of a much younger child, and we are setting these children up for failure.
And, guess what, Mr. Sullivan? Pittsfield Public Schools actually has a plan in place for the children who won’t be age-eligible for kindergarten! As Mr. Sullivan so profoundly put it, these children can "do time in an early education preschool. (Sorry folks, it just isn’t the same as real school)." To this I respond as he did. Really? Really. For those of us who work in this field, I’d like to invite Mr. Sullivan to spend time in our preschool classrooms and observe the teaching and learning that is accomplished on a daily basis. It is indeed, "real school." Pittsfield children too young for kindergarten will be offered a year of full-day quality preschool, provided by Pittsfield Public Schools. I guarantee that the majority of these children will succeed when they enter kindergarten and continue to achieve as they progress through the grades.
The School Committee did not "bow to somebody’s whim" as Mr. Sullivan suggests. The committee considered the research and listened to the experts in the field. You know, Mr. Sullivan, the teachers. The ones who are "paid to teach." We didn’t "overthink it until our heads started to hurt." Unlike you, we see the results. We have the best interests of our children in mind. These children do "have a voice." It’s us, not you. Really!
The writer is parent-child home
program coordinator/teacher at Morningside Community School.