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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.

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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