Dr. Weast's Memo on Kindergarten Redesign

December 17, 1999
[The following is the text of a memorandum delivered today (Friday, December 17) from Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, on the proposed redesign of the Kindergarten curriculum. The memorandum was sent to all elementary school principals and Kindergarten teachers for their review and information and to share with other staff and parents. The memorandum is attached as a Word '97 file. Accompanying the memorandum was a "fact sheet" on the same subject, which is available in another message file in this conference.]


To: Elementary Principals and Kindergarten Teachers

From: Jerry D. Weast, Superintendent of Schools

Subject: Proposed Redesign of the Kindergarten Curriculum Subject

There has been much misinformation and, therefore, misunderstanding regarding the Board of Education's action this week regarding the Kindergarten curriculum. I am writing to help clarify the situation and offer additional information.

The Board of Education asked for the development of a new Kindergarten curriculum in order to strengthen both the full-day and half-day programs. This decision followed the advice and counsel of the school system's leadership in this area: Dr. Patricia Flynn, director of the Department of Academic Programs, and Ms. Pamela Prue, director of the Division of Early Childhood Services. The next steps will involve teachers, principals, specialists, and parents as we seek the best ideas for a stronger curriculum. This work will include a recognition that many elementary schools and Kindergarten teachers, together with specialists in art, music, and physical education, are already working collaboratively -- but on their own -- to achieve the same goal of increased academic rigor through an integrated program. Such innovation is not happening everywhere, and the problem rests with the current curriculum. A recent analysis revealed the curriculum is not comprehensive enough to support a truly accelerated program. There is also insufficient class time for reading, writing, and mathematics, and inconsistencies exist from one school to another in how the curriculum is implemented.

The Board of Education set as one of its academic priorities the development of "a literacy-based birth to Kindergarten initiative." Designing a new curriculum that adds more rigor through reading, writing, and mathematics is an important response. Involving teachers and principals in this redesign, in partnership with the Montgomery County Education Association and the Montgomery County Association of Administrative and Supervisory Personnel, is critical in identifying the best model. Teachers would retain their planning time, and the specialists would still be focused on art, music, and physical education, without lessening the importance of these subjects or diminishing the current staffing for art, music, and physical education. The goal of a representative planning group would be to design a curriculum using national and international models and our own best practices to produce the best for all of our schools. I hope such a group would have your involvement, as well.

Our school system should have a consistent model for Kindergarten, one that gives teachers and specialists the opportunity to deliver a well-rounded program that includes a greater focus on literacy. This requires an improved integration of all subjects so that students learn creatively and individually to read successfully, write clearly, and use their conceptual skills to compute intelligently. Their long-term achievement depends on mastering a more rigorous curriculum than we currently offer.

I have attached for your review a brief "fact sheet" that summarizes the action by the Board of Education. Please distribute copies of this memorandum and attachment to other members of your staff and parents who may be interested. If you have further questions, please discuss them in detail with either Dr. Flynn at 301-279-3350 or Ms. Prue at 301-230-0691.

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