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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 The report was completed in 2005, so some data may be outdated, but the general findings are enlightening.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.

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Wanted: a full-day kindergarten slot — do you feel lucky? April 26, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Kindergarten lotteries.
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Districts in Washington state currently differ in whether and how they provide full-day kindergarten (sometimes known as all-day kindergarten).

Of the districts that provide all-day slots, some districts are more likely to create additional classes to address need, with one district even partnering with a nearby church for classroom space, while other districts offer slots on a “space-available” basis.

Some districts that offer “space-available” slots hold lotteries to determine which families get the slots. Some districts describe publicly how their lotteries are run and enable the public to watch, and some don’t.

Although some states provide access to full-day slots for all families, in all fairness, Washington state is not the only state to hold lotteries when space is limited. This blog author, however, finds the lottery system to be less than satisfactory. 

Given the amount of research about the benefits of early childhood education, it’s hard to imagine leaving a child’s future to chance. We all pay taxes, so why should one family benefit more than another?

For the districts that don’t openly describe how their lotteries are held, this blog author has a few tongue-in-cheek suggestions that could take the process up a notch.

Tongue-in Cheek Alternatives for a Lottery System:
(
Please take these suggestions with a grain of salt and sarcasm — they are not meant for real, although some might actually raise a a few funds. )

School Carnivals

  • Place full-day slots in soda bottles and play ring toss.
  • Just ducky! Pick up the plastic duck with the lucky number, or perhaps place your lucky duck in a “duck dash” race.
  • Have parents “go fish” for lottery slots with child-size fishing rods.
  • Ski ball — get three ball into the center hole and you’re in.
  • Pin the tail on the full-day kindergarten slot.

Other Functions

  • Auctions! Although most parents pay for all-day kindergarten, there’s a large differential between costs for public kindergarten and most private schools, so parents might pony up some of the difference. Don’t forget your checkbooks.
  • Play tic-tac-toe or board game tournaments.
  • Provide slots as door prizes at PTSA meetings.

Again, these are not real suggestions, but are perhaps food for thought in considering  whether a kindergarten lottery — or any system that involves chance — is the best way to prepare the future leaders for a competitive and global economy.

As of 2007, the Economic Opportunity Institute estimated that only about 40% of kindergartners were in full-day programs. A few more districts will phase in programs for some schools for 2008-2009, but it’s likely that thousands of students will not have access to programs before a complete phase-in. Do you feel lucky?

Kindergarten investment — pay now or pay later? April 22, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Early Learning.
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If children get a stronger start in school, some studies show that districts will pay less in the long-term for remedial programs or to retain students who can’t keep up.

Full-day kindergarten produces cost savings to schools as fewer students will require remediation services in later grades or be retained in a lower grade level,” according to the Full Story on Full Day report by the Washington Economic Opportunity Institute.

In a Minnesota study, students in all-day programs showed increases in every skill tested, which helped to close achievement gaps. Here are two examples:

 After a Winona elementary school implemented an all-day K program, the number of “learning disabled” students dropped by 25%; children’s letter sound recognition increased 34%; and children’s knowledge of upper and lower case letters increased 24%.

–Elementary Principal Judy Davis

In Burnsville ‘s all-day K program, researchers found significant increases on every academic skill measured by pre-and post-tests, as well as elimination of the achievement gap among all racial/ethnic groups at the end of the kindergarten year.
 

–Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191
Superintendent Dr. Benjamin Kanninen

It seems like the better option is to make the investment in all-day kindergarten now, give chidren a better footing, and help close some learning gaps.

Currently, districts can offer all-day programs for a monthly charge to parents, when space is available. A few districts are phasing in paid, all-day programs, but the phase-in does not yet impact all districts.

Districts are currently not required to find space for all-day programs, and some hold lotteries for the available slots.

Full Story on Full Day: An Analysis of Kindergarten in Washington State

All Day, Every Day Kindergarten: Minneapolis Foundation 

Invest Now or Pay Later: Pennsylvania Build Initiative

School Improvements in Maryland

Full-Day Kindergarten Research

 

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

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Funding.
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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?