Montessori program at Kingston's George Washington Elementary School will stop serving 3-year-olds
KINGSTON, N.Y. — Starting this fall, George Washington Elementary School’s Montessori Children’s House will no longer serve 3-year-olds.
Kingston school district Superintendent Paul Padalino said that part of the Montessori initiative was a casualty of the district’s $143 million budget proposal for 2012-13, which cut 90 jobs but otherwise did not eliminate academic programs.
“We’d love to be able to do it,” Padalino of the program for 3-year-olds. “It’s just not something we can do.”
No longer offering the prekindergarten program for 3-year-olds at George Washington enabled the district to consolidate a section and eliminate two positions, saving about $200,000, Padalino said. No other district schools have prekindergarten for that age group, he said.
The school district does not receive funding for offering prekindergarten to 3-year-olds, the superintendent said, but the program for 4-year-olds is fully funded through universal prekindergarten money from the state and will continue to operate.
Padalino said 4-year-olds receive full-day education, two hours longer than the rest of the district’s prekindergarten programs last, and he described the 4-year-old prekindergarten classes at George Washington as “rigorous and generous” for that age level.
“Obviously, we’d like to have them right out of the nursery if we could do that, but in this atmosphere, we can’t,” Padalino said.
The Children’s House, which opened in 2008-09 as the first part of a three-year phase-in of the self-directed philosophy of Montessori education, currently serves 3-to-5-year-olds, combining kindergarten and prekindergarten pupils. Montessori classrooms are organized by age groups rather than grades to allow older students to teach and mentor younger pupils.
At recent school board meetings, some parents expressed concern about the number of George Washington teachers who will be laid off and replaced with others who do not have Montessori training. Padalino has cited last-in, first-out layoff rules in the Kingston Teachers Federation’s contract and said most of the laid-off teachers will be replaced by more senior colleagues.
Padalino has said the district has spent more than $1 million on Montessori training, but much of it has been paid for with grant money. Continued...
District officials plan to bring in a consultant to conduct an in-depth evaluation of the progress of the program. Since the Montessori method was introduced at George Washington Elementary School, state standardized test scores have shown the school continues to lag significantly behind the rest of the district in grades 3-5 and either improved more slowly or got worse more quickly than the rest of the district’s elementary schools.
Supporters of the Montessori program say internal district assessments show progress. They also say less-tangible results of bringing the philosophy to the school, like instilling better social skills and a lifelong love of learning in the district’s most impoverished and diverse elementary school student body, cannot be measured by standardized test scores.
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