By Tim Hunt
Split reading sessions are the right choiceUploaded: Jul 19, 2012
Perhaps the flap from parents about the Pleasanton school district's split reading program is no surpriseit has been almost 20 years since Gov. Pete Wilson pushed through the class-size reduction bill in a time when the state had lots of money.
Logically, small class sizes should result in better instruction. However, when the money shrinks, class sizes will growthere's little choice for school boards. Personnel costs consume more than 80 percent of the budget and remember that 20-student classes add 50 percent to the expenses.
So, faced with 30 students in elementary school classrooms, district officials reinstituted the split reading. It was the standard approach for decades before Wilson used class-size reduction to avoid sending more money in the California Teachers Association members' salaries.
It is the right move. For kids who already are reading entering kindergarten, it will not make too much of a differencethey'll do just fine.
But, for those who are not reading at grade level, it's absolutely critical they get the individual help to climb toward proficiency. A number of years ago, I volunteered in a one-on-one tutoring program through the Pleasanton Rotary with fourth graders at Donlon School.
This was when third grade classes were 20 students and then jumped by 50 percent or more in fourth grade. Seeing the challenges faced by the below-average readers made it clear that significant intervention to help those students was necessary or they were going to suffer throughout their educational career.
And, it is far more effective the sooner it takes place for below-grade level students.
For nervous parents, I get the challenges with day care. Those must be secondary to the necessity of doing what works educationally. Giving students who struggle with reading the opportunity to improve is critical because there's no more important skill for their educational careers and their lives thereafter.
When the London Olympics open, some Bay Area residents will be wondering what could have been.
A team of Bay Area leaders put together an excellent bid for the 2012 games a decade ago. They unified the three major cities and identified a series of excellent venues that would have staged a remarkable Olympics.
Former long-time Pleasanton resident Helen Mendel was a key part of that group as its marketing director.
When the United States Olympic Committee got down to the final decision in 2002, New York City, coming off the shock and tragedy of 9-11, received the nod and the Bay Area 2012 effort became a memory.
Helen will be among the close observers, while former Olympian Ann Cribbs will be in London. Helen and Ann have staged a number of events since 2002 using the Bay Area Olympics organization umbrella.