The East Penn School Board will vote soon on whether to offer full day kindergarten to all families in the district. I’m strongly in favor of doing so. Here are four key benefits of full day kindergarten to our community:
1. Improves Readiness for Elementary School (and Beyond)
Any good house requires a strong foundation. Even the most expensive, carefully designed home will collapse if it’s built on a cracked or crumbling base. Education is no different. We are spending a great deal of money and effort on improving curriculum and educational programs in the elementary, middle, and high school levels. But these improvements can’t pay dividends if students don’t start with a good school foundation. Full day kindergarten can provide this strong starting point far more effectively than our current half day programs. It increases the odds of students being able to read by the third grade, a key marker of future success in school. Would you be surprised to learn that some children in East Penn come into kindergarten having never even held a pencil or crayon? The time and more personalized attention afforded to full day kindergarten students begins to make up for these kinds of deficits, while also improving the readiness of all our children to be successful learners.
2. Creates Time for Purposive Play
In a world of increasing pressure from standardized testing, and ever more specialized standards, it is easy to forget that children need time to absorb new ideas, learn more when lessons are active and playful, and learn most deeply when subjects are integrated and connected to one another. Half day kindergarten simply doesn’t provide enough time for this kind of education. I am impressed with the “living classroom” model for full day kindergarten. Our youngest students learn while they play. Full day kindergarten provides the time needed to incorporate all subjects daily into their activities, and the kids get the time they need to connect different subjects in meaningful ways.
3. Research Shows it Works
Evaluating the effects of full day kindergarten programs is more complex than it might seem, because there are so many factors that impact student success. Overall, however, there is a growing body of evidence that full day kindergarten is better for the academic development of students than half day programs, whether measured immediately after kindergarten or measured years later. Such research ranges for case studies of individual school districts all the way to national data that includes information on tens of thousands of different kids (for examples, see here and here). Even in our own community, there is evidence of an immediate payoff from full day programs. The Parkland School District began full day kindergarten last year and already the proportion of their 550 kindergarten students who pass a diagnostic test on early reading skills has jumped from 65% to 80%.
4. Ensures Fairness to all Kids in the District
East Penn actually has full day kindergarten already...but only for 2 of its 22 kindergarten classes. The full day programs at Lincoln and Alburtis are highly regarded and sought after by parents. The lucky few students who attend these full day programs go through a hidden admissions process, lotteries, and sometimes long waiting lists. This is unfair to the vast majority of students who could benefit from a full day program. It should be available to everyone in the district.
My support of full day kindergarten is not one I come to lightly; my opinion is based on talking to many people in the district about the issue, researching it on my own, reading what published studies say about the advantages and costs of such programs, and participating in three formal school board presentations and discussions on the issue over the last eighteen months. On the basis of this work, I’ve come to the conclusion that full day kindergarten is right for our district. What do you think?
This is one of several posts on the full day kindergarten proposal. You can learn more at:
Want to share a short video summary? Here ya go!