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Policy Report — Making the Most of Kindergarten May 8, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Early Learning, Funding.
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If you’re interested in some research on the benefits vs. costs of all-day kindergarten, consider reviewing the Making the Most of Kindergarten: Present Trends and Future Issues in the Provision of Full-day Programs report.

The policy report was produced by the National Institute for Early Education Research, and it discusses trends, trade-offs of benefits vs. costs, and identifies areas where more research is needed. The report was completed in 2005, so some data may be outdated, but the general findings are enlightening.

One takeaway is how regions and states vary in terms of funding and access. You can see how Washington State stacks up against other states, in terms of access and funding. For example, some states provide access to full-day kindergarten for all families, and some fund full-day kindergarten at a rate higher than half-day kindergarten.

In most districts in Washington State, all students are only funded at .5 of an FTE, regardless of whether they’re in full-day or half-day. The state is starting to phase in full-day for some students in some districts, but other districts are still funded for half-day only. In many districts, most parents help make up the difference, typically paying a few hundred dollars a month.

The report includes some recommendations, including the importance of considering full-day programs, while weighing the benefits against costs. The report also suggests that districts should be strategic when implementing full-day kindergarten to ensure all students get maximum benefits. The report also suggests that more research is needed.

Gas vs. instruction: what’s the better investment? April 14, 2008

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Many districts put buses on the road at mid-day to drop off and pick up students for half-day kindergarten programs.

Often, one geographical section of an attendance area is slated for morning programs, and the other section for afternoon programs. Buses will leave the school at mid-day to drop off morning kindergarteners and then pick up afternoon students, which essentially puts some buses back on the road an extra time.

In some districts that have “early release” days, in which school lets out early on a specific day (i.e. every Wednesday), the afternoon programs are shorter than two hours. Some only last an hour and ten minutes. That’s an awful lot of gas for a short period of instruction.

dollar signs An interesting angle to consider is how much the mid-day routes cost the district, especially with the rising cost of gas, as compared to what that dollar equivalent could provide in supplies and salaries.

Budget line items would differ for these expenditures, so it’s not an easy either/or equation, but from a broader perspective one might wonder if gasoline is the best investment of our education dollars? 

Tacoma Schools making major investment in early childhood education April 14, 2008

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In February, the Tacoma School Board agreed to increase the availability of full-day kindergarten for all schools in the district.

Although the state is working on a long-term phase-in, the Tacoma School District is acting sooner, according to the “Tacoma School Board agrees to fund free full-day kindergarten”  article in the News Tribune.

The costs will apparently run about $3 million for materials, salaries, and facilities changes.  According to the article, assistant superintendent Michael Power told the School Board that:

Kids who start their school careers with a full day of learning do better in the long run .

It’s “a very consistent finding” in numerous studies dating back more than 20 years, he said.

This blog author believes that families should have the option to choose full-day vs. half-day, based on the family’s situation and preferences, but that access to full-day should be an option for everyone. Several studies show the value of full-day programs, and many states are ahead of Washington in providing access.

Although one reason for the decision appears to be the district’s efforts to comply with the federal performance requirements, the school board should still be commended on its bold move. If Tacoma can show its support of early childhood education, why can’t other districts?

Interesting report – “The Full Story on Full Day Kindergarten” April 10, 2008

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The Economic Opportunity Institute has authored an in-depth report called The Full Story on Full Day on the benefits of kindergarten and where Washington state is headed. The report describes the benefits of full-day kindergarten, limitations in current offerings, and how we’re not keeping pace with several other states. The report provides interesting details and insight.

“Fewer than 40% of kindergartners in Washington State participate in full-day kindergarten. Availability of the program is limited and adequate funding is difficult to secure.”

 Here’s an excerpt on the importance of kindergarten:

“Full-day kindergarten provides a myriad of benefits for students and for the broader community. From increased academic achievement and school readiness to more time for meaningful instruction and increased continuity in coursework, full-day kindergarten lays the foundation for a robust public education.”

The report describes the long-term economic benefit for the state, in terms of students requiring less long-term support or tutoring and maximizing their potential. There’s also a major economic benefit and increased productivity for parents, who would otherwise have to stay out of the workforce or pay for more expensive private options.

“Full-day kindergarten results in increased academic achievement and school readiness for participants. It not only produces positive, long-term economic benefits for individuals and society, it also results in immediate returns for families, schools, and Washington State’s bottom line.”

(more…)