Good Schools For All by Voice of San Diego

Good Schools for All is a podcast about education. Hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn from the Education Synergy Alliance cut through the jargon and debate to get to the news and ideas that matter. Good schools are at the heart of our democracy and economy. We are about good schools for all kids.
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Good Schools For All by Voice of San Diego


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Now displaying: April, 2016
Apr 28, 2016

The move from play-based preschools to increasingly rigorous kindergarten classrooms is rough, for both kids and parents.

A Good Schools for All listener, Sally Cox, called in to share her story about a particularly jarring transition from preschool to kindergarten. She said she thought her son was well-prepared, but kids in his kindergarten class were expected to be reading by October, and her son quickly fell behind.

“I think the alignment issues between expectations in kindergarten and how children are prepared in preschool really need to be dealt with,” Cox said.

Hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn dig into the big transition problem, which is worsening thanks to a ratcheting up of academic expectations for kindergarteners. Transitional kindergarten, or TK, a public-school program offered to kids born between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 as the first step of a two-year kindergarten class, has been one attempt at closing the early education achievement gap. 

TK is great for the small number of kids who happen to be born at the right time, Kohn said, but as a public policy it’s pretty terrible.

“It’s this privilege, this entitlement that’s only available if you happen to get pregnant and give birth in a certain little window,” she said. “What we’re giving away is a free, extra year of public schooling to the oldest incoming kindergarteners.”

Kohn’s not the only one with a TK pet peeve. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed combining three state-funded programs: preschool, transitional kindergarten and a rating system. He wants to strip away existing requirements and give local school districts more control over how they use the money as long as they prioritize providing early education services to low-income and at-risk kids.

One big problem with the proposal is the lack of any additional funding, said Matt Doyle.

Doyle’s the executive director of innovation at Vista Unified School District. He came on the podcast this week to talk about Brown’s proposal and share some of the things his district has been doing to help ease the transition between preschool and kindergarten.

“We have actually identified the transition from preschool into kindergarten as probably the single greatest transition the child can make as they develop their cognitive academic abilities for college and career,” he said. “So for us this is the No. 1 issue.”

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Number of the Week

6,846: That’s the number of transitional kindergarteners we have in the San Diego region. The program just launched three years ago and it’s seen a big increase since its inception. There was a 67 percent increase in TK enrollment from the 2013-2014 to last year, and this year’s numbers are expected to see an even bigger jump.

What’s Working

The Quality Preschool InitiativeThe program rates the quality of state-funded preschools and head start programs in San Diego County. It’s working because the San Diego County Office of Education is implementing the program effectively. The results of the program aren’t publicly available yet, but they will be soon.

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Apr 21, 2016

Education technology is exploding. This week in San Diego some of the major players in technology companies, their investors and education leaders gathered in San Diego for the ASU GSV Summit to talk about disrupting classrooms. We grabbed one of the attendees on his way to the talks.

Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart, an organization that advocates for innovations in learning, joins the podcast to talk about how technology is increasingly entering and improving the educational system.

He said the dubbed EdTech movement is finally ready for real, widespread implementation in schools across the world.

"That revolution started 20 years ago but we're finally beginning to understand how to incorporate all these new tools into schools," he said. "Both in K-12 and higher ed."

An example is the adaptive learning approach, he said, which uses computers or tablets and game-like software that, with just a few initial questions, understands a student's reading or math level then adjusts and makes follow-up questions harder or easier. The software also uses engaging graphics and makes the experience fun to keep students interested.

The result is a personalized learning experience for students and real-time data for teachers and parents who can easily track a child's progress and adjust accordingly. The ability to offer effective personalized learning makes the current obsession with making sure students are at the appropriate grade level in every subject seem outmoded.

The technological future of education Vander Ark describes sounds dreamy, but there's one big problem.

"The future is here – it's just not very evenly distributed," he said, quoting cyberpunk sci-fi author William Ford Gibson.

Not all schools are progressing at the same pace when it comes to using technology, Vander Ark said, and even when school districts do bring tech into classrooms, merely replacing textbooks with laptops isn't enough – there needs to be an entire tech ecosystem, which includes smart software, data tracking and innovative teaching techniques.

"That's the big challenge and a big reason progress has been relatively uneven," he said.

Also on this week’s podcast, co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn talk about a recent parenting win, the seductive attraction of the project-based learning approach used by schools like High Tech High and the uptick in private startups looking to invest in education technology for public schools.

Number of the Week

4 percent: That's the projected proportion of private capital that's expected to be invested in education technology in the next decade. Right now, the number's just .4 percent, so that's a 10-fold increase in the next 10 years.

What’s Working

TEDxKids@ElCajon: Organized by the Cajon Valley Union School District, the annual event helps kids find what's unique and special about them and asks them to present to their community. Students from kindergarten through high school participate and it's become a successful, student-centric event.