Thursday, May 3, 2007

All Day Kindergarten in Public Schools: It's about time -- Literally!

Despite the inflammatory title, this article shows that all-day kindergarten continues to grow.

Detroit News: Districts fear costs as state weighs requiring all-day kindergarten (05/02/07)

Preschools flourish because many parents recognize the value in early education. My own children went to a wonderful preschool,
Lyceum Academy in Rochester Hills, beginning at age three. We kept them there for several years, including a complete year of Kindergarten. The initial decision to choose Lyceum kindergarten over Rochester kindergarten was partially influenced by Lyceum's great program, but was primarily driven by the fact that Lyceum had all-day kindergarten, and Rochester does not.

Research clearly shows the value of beginning a child's education early. Over my six years of involvement with Lyceum, I've personally watched hundreds of kids aged 3-6 who not only "endure" a full day of school, but generally flourish! Some of the children need naps, which is fine, but they still benefit from a full day of learning. And many cease taking the naps very early in the school year.

What we didn't realize at the time, but clearly understand now is that the full day kindergarten program is key to a successful start of a child's education. It's time for full-day kindergarten to become a normal feature of public education.

Most non-public schools -- and many parents -- recognize that most children are ready to learn at early ages. This is not yet widely accepted in public schools, and the result is that our children lose a year. I believe the Kindergarten program at Lyceum was at least equal to -- and probably stronger than -- the first grade program at Rochester. This is not because of the teachers; both schools have outstanding teachers (although we like to think Lyceum's kindergarten lead teacher, "Miss Barbara", is extraordinary and unique! :-) . It's instead because public schools still don't seem to fully embrace a robust early learning program, and it's reflected in the curriculum.

Another consequence is that public schools are missing the boat on some additional revenue because their choice to only offer half-day kindergarten drives parents to find private solutions, and districts subsequently lose funding they would've received for those kindergarten students.

This is very clearly shown in the quote from the article:

"Southfield's classes cost $1.3 million more per year, doubling the cost of half-day programs, but it boosted kindergarten enrollment to 508 students this year from 392 in 2004, despite an overall loss of 403 students from the 9,350-student district."

Demographics and student enrollment estimates are tricky, but one analysis would suggests that a system-wide student loss of 4.3% would predict a kindergarten class of 375 students instead of the 508 actual count. At Southfield's funding levels, the additional revenue received for those additional 133 students would've covered the cost increase quoted in the article.

What was not covered in the article was the little known fact that school districts already receive the FULL per-pupil funding allowance for kindergarten students, even though they only offer half-day programs. A reasonable counter point to the "additional cost" argument might be that schools have been being paid for a full day of school, and parents should be able to expect to receive just that. In other words, moving to all-day kindergarten is not an additional cost, but is instead an obligation that schools have been neglecting and it's time to catch up!

==> Mike

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Reno -

I am curious - have any studies been done to show that kids in full day Kindergarten programs actually fair better academically down the road than kids who are not in full day programs? As a kid I was in a half day kindergarten, as were all kids in the 1970s, and I did very well academically (I have a master's degree from U of M). I have a daughter currently in half day Kindergarten in Livonia Public Schools, and feel that she is receiving a top notch education. I love that fact that she gets so much good instruction in the morning, and then a full afternoon at home with time for creative play (with friends or her brother.) Your observations about full day Kindergarten being superior seem to be based on personal observation, and not any studies which show real, long term benefits. I would not want my daughter to be forced to spend so much more time each day in a completely stuctured setting. I believe structured, instituational settings often sacrifice a child's ability for uninterrupted free play, which I think encourages creativity. (This, of course, is only my personal observation!) Please let me know if studies exist to show long term benefit for a full day Kindergarten. Thanks!

Ann Waker