Tuesday, February 12, 2008

All-Day Kindergarten -- An End to a District Cash Cow?

In her State of the State Speech, Governor Granholm indicated that she was going to “ask” school districts to begin offering full day kindergarten.

Unfortunately, most districts are likely to resist her polite request.

Kindergarten is a cash cow for districts. They are able to bill the state -- and taxpayers -- for the full state allowance, but only provide a half-day of instructional service. And, many will then turn around and offer additional aftercare programs, which cost parents thousands per year.

Most districts are unlikely to give up this hidden source of money without a struggle.

You’ll hear plenty of concern over “additional cost”. Yes, it will cost more, but it’s hardly fair to consider it as "additional". These are services that have been denied to kindergarteners since the passage of Prop A and the creation of a state per-pupil grant.

Fortunately some districts have been bucking the trend. A few have been offering full-day kindergarten for years. Yesterday there was an article about another moving to full day:

Oakland Press: Board approves all-day kindergarten classes for fall (02/11/08)

Farmington Public Schools will begin offering all-day kindergarten in the fall. Parents will have the option of enrolling their children in “satellite schools” if they prefer half-day. This sounds like a great step, and I certainly hope other boards are watching.

Making an interesting point, Farmington's district spokesperson notes, “If the program attracts the 72 students that in the past have gone elsewhere but then come to the district in the first grade, it could be a revenue gain of $734,400, which would offset the cost of implementation.”

In Rochester, the district has – for years – documented this same phenomenon. From a recent district report, “Rochester Community Schools has traditionally experienced a significant increase in the number of first graders from the previous year kindergarten class.” The average “jump” over the past five years exceeds 6.6%, which puts Rochester on par with Farmington.

But money aside, I believe the biggest value is in the education gains. There are plenty of studies showing the learning increases that come from all-day kindergarten. Some studies suggest that they long term benefits aren’t as significant, with some of the gains disappearing by fifth grade. But I believe that is probably because the schools move to all-day kindergarten without making corresponding changes to their curriculums for the subsequent grades.

There is a discussion on this topic at the
Livonia Neighbors forum that is worth your time if you are interested in all-day K. (The Livonia Neighbors formu, incidentally, is a great online destination. There is always something interesting being discussed there!)

Anyway, I’ve posted the full Oakland Press article below in case the link doesn’t work.

==> Mike.



Board approves all-day kindergarten classes for fall

By JERRY WOLFFE Of The Oakland Press

All elementary schools in Farmington Public Schools will have all-day kindergarten classes starting in the fall of 2008, a school official said.

The proposal was passed Jan. 29 by the school board, said Diane Bauman, director of community relations for the 12,000-student district.

There will be an undetermined number of satellite sites offering half-day kindergarten within the district. Bauman said the sites will be determined by the end of February.

The district, composed of 13 elementary schools, four middle schools, three high schools and an alternative high school, will hold Kindergarten Information Nights for the 2008-09 school year from 7-8 p.m. Feb. 27-28 at the Maxfield Training Center, Room 1, 33000 Thomas St. in Farmington Hills, she said.

The all-day kindergarten proposal was brought to the Board of Education at the January meeting by the subcommittee of the Learning Configuration and Facilities Study Committee, Bauman said Tuesday.

Several studies presented to the board indicated that students do better when they attend kindergarten for full days, she said.

Currently, the district has an “EduCare Option Program” in the afternoon or morning, Bauman said.

Students now can attend a half-day of class either in the morning or afternoon.

The Feb. 27-28 meetings are designed to provide parents information on the kindergarten program.

It will not cost parents money to have the all-day kindergarten sessions, said Bauman.

“We haven’t decided on the location or number of satellite programs, but will have by the night of the February meetings,” she said.

Some of the studies indicated that all-day kindergarten programs provide more time to meet the academic and social needs of children, said Sarah Haskins, a public relations spokeswoman for the district. Students in all-day programs also score higher on achievement tests, she said. In recent years, higher standards have been established in language arts, math, science and social studies for all students at the kindergarten level.

Providing all-day kindergarten throughout the district also allows for equal opportunities for all students, Haskins said.

All-day kindergarten is available to students at only three neighborhood schools at this time, she added.

Farmington will offer all-day kindergarten at each neighborhood school and other half-day programs at satellite schools, Haskins said.

Transportation will not be provided to satellite schools but will be provided to traditional classrooms.

If the all-day program attracts the 72 students that in the past have gone elsewhere but then come to the district in first grade, it could be a revenue gain of $734,400, which would offset the cost of implementation, said Haskins.

Contact staff writer Jerry Wolffe at (248) 745-4612 or jerry. wolffe@oakpress.com.

10 comments:

Bill Milligan said...

Mike:

I haven't looked at it from the financial perspective before, but having a child in kindergarten--and I currently do--I can say that as a parent I'm firmly against all-day kindergarten. I don't think most kids that age are emotionally ready for all-day school (well, I know my son isn't). Studies be damned: I know what my kid needs and this proposal is first and foremost a proposal about COST and MONEY, not CHILDREN.

In our district, my son goes full-day Tuesday and Thursday and a half-day on Friday...which at least provides a day off in between.

Since I've been in kindergarten, I've seen programs beefed up, kids starting pre-school earlier and earlier, the push to all-day kindergarten...for what? What does all this show as far as students being ready when they exit the other end of it at high school graduation?

I also realize some parents would like this schedule as it makes it more convenient for 2-parent incomes (which is almost a necessity, not a luxury anymore). Fair enough. But forcing parents to put their 5-year-olds through all-day school just so bean counters can feel good isn't a solution, either.

Mike Reno said...

Hi Bill.

I think I said that one of the things I liked about the Farmington plan was that it did allow parents to "opt-out" of all-day K.

I've got two still in elementary (one in first grade) and both went to all day K (non-public). It was a wonderful experience.

Most non-publics have classrooms full of kindergarteners who read, add, etc. It is, quite frankly, comparable to the first grade curriculum of public schools.

I've seen first-hand how kids are ready to learn this stuff at that age. And despite what you might think, it's not some "pressure cooker" environment. It's kindergarten! They have fun.

Trying to measure it's value at "the other end" -- when they graduate -- is not a reasonable metric because of the weak curriculum found in the subsequent years. We set low standards for our kids. Moving to all-day K is just one piece of the bigger puzzle. That move would need to be followed by an increase of the rigor in first grade, and then second grade, and so on.

Finally, I'm not sure what you mean by "making the bean counters feel good". Moving to all-day K would INCREASE expenses, not DECREASE them.

armywife1 said...

Mike-

I am actually a fan of letting parents op into ADED kindergarten programs.

We are rushing our kids to grow up to fast. Public schools want the kids at an earlier and earlier age and want to keep them longer and longer.

Not all 5-year olds are ready to be in school all day. We need options. This is just another argument for competition in schools.

Bill Milligan said...

Actually, Mike, the linked article seems to imply that this will actually increase revenue for districts (by getting more of these students to go into first grade there). The bottom-line aspect of this proposal is clearly outlined in the article.

And, yes, parents have the right to "opt out"--at the risk of alienating their children and forcing hardship on those parents by making them responsible to get their children to and from school (as opposed to the all-day kids getting district busing). Gee, aren't those of us not wanting full-day for 5-year-olds taxpayers, too?!

Aside from that, you provide death-blow logic to this whole idea right here:

"Some studies suggest that they long term benefits aren’t as significant, with some of the gains disappearing by fifth grade. But I believe that is probably because the schools move to all-day kindergarten without making corresponding changes to their curriculums for the subsequent grades."

This going-to-school-younger-and-younger stuff is completely irrelevant and means nothing in the long run. Zilch. Maybe it allows parents to brag at parties about how their kids barely out of diapers can read and write--perhaps in two languages. But that's about it.

So your kids did go to kindergarten, full days, at age 5. My daughter didn't start kindergarten until age 6 and ended up skipping 3rd grade and going straight to 4th grade.

Implying that districts will be for or against this change based on work loads and financial concerns detracts from the meaningful dialog that needs to happen about it.

RightMichigan.com said...

Tricky subject. I wouldn't have been ready for all-day school in kindergarten myself. I was barely ready for it by sixth grade.

My youngest sister tested out and skipped kindergarten altogether jumping right into first grade.

At that age it might really be about educational choice and options.

--Nick
www.RightMichigan.com

Mike Reno said...

In Rochester, the district began offering "All Day, Alternate Day" Kindergarten. This is something where kids go for a full day on Monday & Wednesday (or alternately on Tuesday and Thursday), and the a half-day on Friday.

Some parents were concerned that their kids weren't ready. It was an "opt-in" program. Within a short period of time, participation was nearly 100%.

Later, the district did a study to look into doing it districtwide. When the presentation was made to the board, a number of parents offered comments. As I recall, there was one or two that wanted the traditional half-day program. However, the vast majority of those who commented were supportive of the All-Day / Alternate Day program, but really wanted a full-time program.

Regardless of whether we "opt-in" or "opt-out" of full-day, I think we need to offer choices.

But here is the really interesting conundrum: I have yet to see a study that doesn't show educational gains with all-day K. So, those children come out of the program more advanced, and ready for more challenges. I believe the appropriate path would be to offer a more rigorous curriculum to them. However, those that experienced half-day might not be ready.

So then what?

The problem with public education, and the lack of choice, is that it forces these absurd "one-size-fits-all" discussions.

Bill Milligan said...

I don't know the answer to this question, but it's worth exploring: I wonder how many parents who are in favor of all-day kindergarten are in favor of it strictly for perceived academic benefits--and how many are in favor of it because it's cheap daycare?

I certainly know people who are very dedicated to their child's education and have been proactive at an early age and believe earlier the better. Understood. Fair enough. But...

Sorry, I just haven't seen wide-spread emotional readiness in that age group necessary to handle all-day five days a week kindergarten. As for studies...well, there are enough studies out there to find what you want to find.

I did half-day kindergarten where I slept on a mat half the time and did finger painting the other half, then went into first grade where the teacher believed a ruler on the knuckles and gigantic red pen were the proper teaching tools (private school, not an MEA teacher ;))--and still managed to come out the other end when the smoke cleared with a master's degree.

Yes, there are exceptions. But this push to do things younger and younger is focusing attention on the wrong end of the horse...or machine...well, you know what I mean.

Eric said...

I don't want to sound rude here, but is anyone really surprised that school districts regard kindergarten as a cash cow and aren't too keen to let it go?

The current revenue system was created on the grounds that students represent dollars and school districts should compete for them. Competition, we were told, would foster educational excellence through this competition.

Once implemented, however, it became all about the money. Districts are now focused on doing things that generate revenue, which doesn't always translate to trying to improve how they educate kids.

Anonymous said...

Mike, you're really jumping into bed with Kyle and the EAG secret-society-of-board-members thing. Is there a secret handshake that goes along with that?

Seriously, that stink won't wash off.

Anonymous said...

What is sad about this is that the state cares about thier money (surpise) and NOT about the children. All day kindergarten is to much on children that are so young. You are talking that 4 1/2 year olds to six year olds...such a big age difference. Kids are not emotionally ready for that much structure....Let the children be children. Quit forcing them to grow up. I am 100% against full day kindergarten and this will greatly impact our family, since we have young children still at home. INFACT the only people I can find that like the all day kinder program is those that work and use the after care program cause it saves them money....who cares about what is best for the children?