Support Brookline's Kindergarten Teachers: Sign this Parent Letter to the School Committee
June 6, 2019

To the Superintendent and members of the Brookline School Committee,

We are parents, caregivers, and supporters of children in the Public Schools of Brookline. We write to show our support for PSB kindergarten teachers. We ask you to listen to them, take seriously their observations, expertise, and ideas, and act in the best interest of the youngest children in our schools.

We are concerned that classroom teachers, who work directly with our students and know them well, are finding that district mandated programs may be diminishing our children’s love of learning, and damaging their socio-emotional wellbeing.

We hear that rigid, scripted, ever-increasing literacy blocks are crowding out time for play-based learning. Young children cannot be expected to sit still and to excel in desk-bound academics. We see in our own homes every day that they need to move, explore, interact and engage with the world. Why is the district requiring longer literacy blocks and “working snacks”? In some schools these blocks can be up to 90 minutes long, a tremendous amount of time in the instructional day when accounting for transitions, lunch, and specials. We are concerned that increased academic requirements are reducing the time available for play-based learning.

We are concerned when we hear teachers reporting that our children are showing increased anxiety as well. They are saying they can see behavioral problems rise as children are pushed away from play and towards rote academics. Research reflects this. Please see the work of Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an award-winning Massachusetts based researcher who has published many papers on the potentially detrimental effects of forcing children to learn to read too early (https://bit.ly/1FL9ExQ).

No child in the Brookline schools should ever say, “I’m not good at anything,” simply because we are asking them to do something they are not developmentally ready to accomplish. And yet this is exactly what kindergarten teachers are hearing from some of their students.

We are concerned that the focus on academic literacy out of synch with developmental readiness may be adversely impacting the most vulnerable students, undermining their confidence, especially when teachers are not allowed the flexibility to adapt to the student’s unique needs. On top of this, excessive data collection requirements are taking away time that teachers could spend working directly with their students or developing plans specific to the needs of their students. An example: the hours spent filling out progress reports that no parent can decipher is time spent away from teaching.

We support kindergarten teachers and their call to preserve play-based learning in Brookline. This is the direction many of the state’s best districts are moving in. There is an ample body of research that has repeatedly shown the power and importance of play in childhood learning. (Links to some of this research: https://bit.ly/2XEUxS5)

We also believe in the importance of choice time, to give our kindergartners the opportunity to spend time every day on activities that they choose and feel are fulfilling and empowering.

We urge the school committee to act in its capacity as representative citizen body to do what you can to return play, teacher creativity, and developmental readiness to the heart of our children’s kindergarten experiences. We ask you to find out why the district is moving away from play-based learning, and to ask our administrators what they can do to help reverse this trend.

When kindergarten teachers from across Brookline choose to speak in unison, for the sake of the children we put in their care, we must listen and act.
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