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SD Unified Considers Plan to Limit Parents Choice

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

As we head into the new school year, San Diego Unified is facing the question of whether some parents should have the freedom of picking their child's classes or teachers. School board members are considering a new program that would limit a parent's choice regarding early childhood education. The new range of choices is one of the proposals under new School Superintendent Terry Grier . KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis has the story. 

District officials say the program would be tested out in 30 elementary schools beginning in September.

Kindergarteners at those schools will be randomly grouped together on the first day of school – and they will stay together until they finish the third grade.

If the kids don't like their classmates or their teacher, parents would have to take it up with the school's principal. Right now parents can easily move their kids in and out of classes.   

Debbie Zappelli is a mother of three who has some serious concerns about limiting parents choice. She says certain kids respond better to certain teachers.

Zappelli: So say my shy child, gets put in with a very loud first grade teacher. It would probably take her a lot longer to get com in that class than if you would put her with a teacher who was a lot calmer and quieter. She would probably learn a lot sooner.

And Debbie's not alone. Some parents worry their kids would miss out on making plenty of friends. Others feel problem students might slow down the entire class.    

But Chuck Morris says that's not the case. Morris is San Diego Unified's new director of curriculum and instruction.

He says research shows keeping kids together helps teachers share information with one another as the kids finish each grade level. That, in turn, helps teachers meet the needs of their class. He says kids will also be ready to learn. 

Morris: They're not having to possibly go into a new class and have to make new friends. Some people might say, 'Well isn't that what its supposed to be about?' But we're actually trying to make students feel comfortable and not take a delayed length of time to settle into a classroom situation. 

If approved, the program will be tested over the next three years, at the tune of roughly nine million dollars. 

Ana Tintocalis, KPBS News. 

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