Monthly Archives: October 2005

Full-Day Kindergarten #

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last Board of Education meeting. Chairman Burningham presented a resolution supporting Governor Huntsman’s efforts to expand kindergartens to full-day programs. While I believe the governor is well-intentioned, I disagree with the premise of full-day kindergartens.

It’s true that the achievement gap we’re facing in Utah schools becomes pronounced early in the elementary years, and is more difficult to overcome as students move through school. Research indicates, for example, that an emphasis on math instruction and remediation during grades 4 thru 6 may have more impact on high school math performance than tutoring in later years. Ensuring a foundational knowledge early is key to future success. But, I still do not agree with full-day kindergartens.

From a Deseret News article reporting on the meeting:

Offering full-day kindergarten statewide would cost just under $42 million, according to estimates supplied by the State Office of Education, working with the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst and governor’s Office of Planning and Budget.

Full-day kindergarten in schools where at least 20 percent of students are ethnic minorities would cost $30 million. In Title I schools only, it would cost $5.5 million…

But non-financial costs worry two state board members.

"The move toward longer kindergarten, I think, encourages deterioration of parents involved in the education of the youngest of our children," board member Thomas Gregory said. While English language learners would benefit, "I am not in favor of expanding (the concept) to all of Utah students."

Board member Debra Roberts agrees.

"I’m supportive of all day for those kids who so desperately need it. But don’t take our babies even (longer). I value those afternoons with my kindergartner, just the two of us," she said. "I don’t think one of (my children) would have benefited from all-day kindergarten."

Deseret News, “Kindergarten to go full-day?”
Referenced Wed, 26 Oct 2005 00:31 (MDT)

Our pubic education dollars are better spent in other ways. To combat some of our most pressing educational concerns, the State Board of Education requested money targeted at teaching math at the 4th thru 6th grades ($16M), and for assisting high school students struggling to pass the UBSCT exit exam ($6M) during the last legislative session. Both requests were denied. That $22M would have a greater effect on the success of education in Utah than a transition to full-day kindergartens. It’d be cheaper too.

It’s not just about money. I see full-day kindergartens as an abdication of parental responsibility to teach basic skills. For most families, full-day kindergarten devolves into a state funded daycare. It gives us less time with our children, and becomes one more step toward the deterioration of the family unit.

If we do provide full-day kindergartens, what additional content will be taught? If we’re teaching our youngest kids more by keeping them in school longer, does that mean we can accelerate their progress through the elementary curriculum, effectively being a half a year ahead by high school graduation? I don’t see it working out that way, so where is our added value?

If the additional time was used to remediate English language learners, in order to help them meet reading and writing standards, then maybe it’s time well spent. Or maybe the additional time could be used to provide an increased level of special services for students with disabilities. Perhaps these students’ parents could be invited to participate in the additional time.

Limiting the scope limits cost. The State Office of Education estimates an ESL-only, full-day kindergarten would cost less than $4.4M, a funding level that is realistic and is more likely to add value than a more costly program with broader scope.

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Employees as Stake-Holders #

Lynn Stoddard, author of Educating for Human Greatness, presented to the State Board of Education today. He touched on a thought that intrigued me. My interpretation was that in order to achieve maximum productivity from employees at all levels, instead of directing all employee activities, companies should instead ask the question, “What actions will you take to help us achieve our mission?”

He referred to the work of W. Edwards Deming, who suggested American auto makers consider the suggestions of assembly line workers to improve quality and efficiency. The idea was slow to catch on here, but was embraced in Japan, and led to their explosive growth and reputation for quality.

Stoddard also used the Utah Highway Patrol as an example, quoting multiple managers who experienced not only increased productivity in traditional areas, but also significant creativity and enthusiasm in growing programs with marked, repeated success. (Unfortunately, I didn’t note the specifics he cited.)

As I look back on my work experience, I believe the times I felt the most productive were the times when I was given the latitude to explore new paths and extend my own skills. In my first computer job (technical support), I spent my spare moments learning programming and SQL, which eventually led to a training program which we used for several years. Later as a supervisor for the same organization, one of my employees chose to rework the application morphing it into a larger web-based application.

This is the model Google uses when they ask their developers to devote 20% of their time to personal projects. I also believe it ties closely with Covey’s admonition to “Sharpen the Saw.” (Habit seven in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.)

It’s no secret that employees are more productive when they believe in what they’re working for. Asking, “What actions will you take to help us achieve our mission?” is an affective way of making employees’ objectives align with those of management, and makes them stake-holders in success.

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