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More programs needed – what about the other half day? July 15, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Resources.
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There are few private or community programs that synch with half-day kindergarten schedules in most districts. This makes it challenging for working parents to find care for the other half-day, especially if extended family does not live in the area.

Some before/after-school programs don’t offer a half-day option. Some don’t serve, or at least pick up, 5-year-olds. Many have waiting lists. Some are outside of the budgets of many working parents. Some districts don’t inform parents whether their child is in morning or afternoon kindergarten until shortly before school starts, making it hard to plan care in advance.

It’s also a tall order to fit around the schedules every day of the week, especially when you throw in an altered schedule one day a week for many districts. This occurs when kids are either let our early or arrive late to enable career development for teachers.

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 The report was completed in 2005, so some data may be outdated, but the general findings are enlightening.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

Open assignment period for Seattle schools May 3, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in School Districts.
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The open assignment period for Seattle schools began on May 1, according to the Seattle Public Schools Web site.

Open enrollment was held earlier this year, and this month’s open assignment period is for requesting changes to assignments. Refer to the Enrollment Services section and the Enrollment Guide page on the district’s site for more details.

For information on enrollment data and discussions about student assignments, see the Assignment Plan Web site.

Resources for Parents: Washington State Department of Early Learning April 29, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Communication, Resources.
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Are you looking for resources on child development or child care? Or perhaps links to child safety or nutrition resources?

The Washington State Department of Early Learning has an excellent Web site with links, downloads, and other helpful information for parents and other family. You can find out about learning benchmarks,  community partnerships, and more.

If you are a child care or education provider, see the Providers & Educators section for additional resources.

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:
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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

 

So what about the other half day? April 21, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in School Districts.
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Very few community organizations or daycares provide instruction or care for kindergartners that would complement the half-day kindergarten programs. Some provide extended care for mornings and evenings, often with waiting list, but it usually wraps around a full school day.

Parents shouldn’t expect the district to be a babysitter, but realistically, what options are available to working parents? Not all families have extended family who are capable of caring for a rambunctious kindergartner, or who live nearby.

Another issue is that parents may not get to chose whether their child is in morning or afternoon programs, as this often depends on bus routes. Some schools don’t notify parents about placement until summer, which makes it even harder to plan. Some programs, typically afternoon, are shortened on early release days, making it even more complicated to find care.

If you lived in 13 other states in our nation, your state would be required to offer full-day kindergarten. Your neighborhood school — that you’ve paid taxes for — would be required to find space for your child. You would not have to tell a wide-eyed trusting little soul that he or she can’t attend schools with his or her friends.

If you have concerns about this issue, please let your school and state leaders know. If you are in the Lake Washington School District, where some schools have dozens of children on the waiting list, here are details on how to contact the board. There is a board meeting at 7 tonight (4/21) in the District Resource Center, but apparently the board only allows public comments on its first meeting of the month.

When a “half day” isn’t a half April 19, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in School Districts.
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If you are a parent of a school-aged child, you are probably familiar with “early dismissal” or “late arrival” days. This is typically one day during the week that’s shorter than the others, i.e. Mondays or Wednesdays, in which teachers can plan and work on career development.

In some schools, the kindergarten programs shoftens significantly, such as an hour and ten minutes for afternoon students in the Lake Washington School District on Wednesdays. The shortened program hardly seems like enough time to wipe noses and get the little ones settled in before it’s time to turn around and go home. Either this is a brand-new approach to math, or the program isn’t truly half a day in some cases, since the full-day students attend for 5ish hours on the shorter day in some schools.

If the kids ride the bus, an hour and ten minutes seems like a high ratio of traveling and transition to actual instructional time. What’s interesting is that some school districts don’t shorten the kindergarten schedules as much for the early release days, offering in some cases more than 2 hours.

Another ramification in some districts is that afternoon classes are shorter than morning classes or vice versa on the career development days. For example, the half-day program at the Lake Washington School District is more than 1.5 hours longer for morning students than for afternoon students at the same school. Shouldn’t a pubic school provide equal instructional time to all students? Other districts, however, better distribute the shortened day across both morning and afternoon programs.

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Upcoming seminars on kindergarten readiness April 17, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Early Learning.
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Do you want to know what we can all do to help children prepare for school? In the next few weeks, a seminar called “Preventing the Kindergarten Readiness Gap”  will be coming to several cities and towns.

The one-day workshop is sponsored by the National Children’s Reading Foundation. Click on the seminar link above for details about cost and locations.

Early learning starts long before kindergarten, and can help prevent children from falling behind. You can read more background on kindergarten readiness in the To the Point Blog by Your Learning Center.

Some upcoming school board meetings in the Puget Sound region April 16, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in School Districts.
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Attending a school board meeting is great way to gain insight about funding and policy. Some school boards enable public comment — please refer to the specifics about your school board operations.

Below are some upcoming dates — click on the links for more details:

Lake Washington School Board — 7 p.m. on 4/21 at the LWSD Resource Center

Snoqualmie Valley School Board —  7:30 on 5/8 at the Snoqualmie District Office

Issaquah School District — 7 p.m. on 4/23 in Administration Office Boardrooms

Newport School Board — 6:30 on 4/28 in the District Office Board Room

Seattle School Board — 6 p.m. on 4/23 at the Auditorium of the Stanford Center

If you would like to add information about a meeting or your district, feel free to add a comment. For more information, see the School Districts in Washington State link, and browse to your district.