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Elementary schools' computer instruction getting a makeover

Published 7:01 am, Thursday, March 21, 2013
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Computer instruction in Westport's elementary schools will be revised next year to accommodate more instructional time in major subject areas, as school officials gear up for the implementation of a new set of academic standards next year.

Local elementary school students now are taught the computer curricula through regularly scheduled, stand-alone classes. Next year, the elementary technology and library media programming will be incorporated into "content areas," which include language arts, math, science and social studies.

For fifth-graders, the greater focus on content areas will also be accommodated by a 10-minute reduction in their total physical-education instruction time each week.

The Board of Education unanimously approved those changes Monday.

"The computer instruction will be delivered with an even greater impact to the learning objectives," Board of Education Chairwoman Elaine Whitney told the Westport News on Wednesday.

Including computer instruction in content areas would also allow for greater blocks of time in core academic areas, which will enable educators to pursue the goals of the Westport 2025 curriculum initiative even more effectively, Whitney added.

Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon also backs those elementary school curriculum modifications.

Instructional time changes are linked to the introduction next year of Common Core Standards, which will form the foundation of all state standardized tests. School administrators say more instructional time is needed for elementary pupils to meet the Common Core Standards, which they describe as more demanding than current state exams such as the Connecticut Mastery Test and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test.

In a related move, elementary school administrators have proposed expanding the school district's kindergarten schedule next year from three full days to five full days to accommodate more instructional time. Moving to five full days for kindergartners would allow 85 extra minutes of language-arts instruction, an additional 75 minutes for math and 90 more minutes of science and social studies programming each week.

That plan has caused debate at recent school board meetings, with parents divided in their reactions. While many parents say they believe their children would thrive academically with an expanded kindergarten timetable, a large number of parents opposed to the idea argue that kindergartners are not ready for five full days of school and that their children benefit developmentally from their time spent out of class.

The board is set to vote on the five-day, full-day kindergarten proposal at its April 8 meeting.

pschott@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott