Boardmember Miriam Walden of the Albany Unified School District wrote a commentary on Albany Today explaining her ideas on issues related to the staggered reading program:
There are really three issues being discussed. First, no board member denies the value of small group reading instruction. I personally believe this program is enormously valuable. Second, the value of adding instructional minutes, which I personally believe is very questionable – more minutes does not necessarily mean more learning. We have not yet received an evaluation of the impact of the additional minutes that we added to the 1-3 grade schedules this fall.
Third, the very difficult childcare / family arrangements required by the staggered start times that we currently have for grades 1-3. Which I said represent a hidden tax on families of small children to pay for the small group reading program.
All of the schedules presented maintained small group instruction in some form – but some of them were impossibly expensive and some reduced the small group time to about a half an hour.
“Scenario 3″ simply adds 20 mins of instructional time without giving parents any relief from the child care problem in the mornings. Some parents would still have drop off times as late as 9:10 – others would have to contend with getting small children up earlier in the AM to get to school by 8:10. Since it doesn’t help parents with the real problem that they have and it does present significant risks to our program by changing the schedule without sufficient evaluation of the potential impact on teaching and learning, I will not support it.
The real solution here is additional on site childcare and enrichment options in Albany. I believe we all need to join in working very hard on this so that we can have new childcare and enrichment programs – probably fee for service programs, but also scholarships for families that are struggling with the cost of childcare, available by the Fall of 2009.