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.