Time for full-day kindergarten?

SusancastilloOregon schools superintendent Susan Castillo makes the case today for full-day kindergarten:

Research, and the experience of other states, has shown that full-day kindergarten builds academic and social readiness for first grade. In addition, these gains last throughout the early school years.

Since I became superintendent, we have increased the number of Oregon students in full-day kindergarten from 3,600 to 5,800. I support full funding for full-day kindergarten across the state. The price tag for that is about $100 million. In addition, I support full funding for Oregon's pre-kindergarten program. However, knowing that there are so many other really important education initiatives this legislative session, I am asking the governor for $65 million to at least expand half-day kindergarten to a full day in our lowest-income schools. This is an excellent investment, and it is an important first step. ...

Full-day kindergarten is also a wise long-term investment. If America is going to keep its competitive edge in the 21st century as technology and globalization transform the world we live in, we need to support education.

Of course, we need to invest more in our high schools, community colleges and universities, but if you really want to increase the number of engineers in the pipeline, you need to introduce kids to math and science when they're 5 and 6.

Read the rest. Discuss.

  • Zak J. (unverified)

    Great idea. Continuing and expanding the early intervention program for the pre-K set should also see tremendous returns on the investment. Those folks are miracle workers.

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    Public early childhood education programs give every child the early start that is required to be successful.

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    When Betty Roberts was a State Senator, she suggested trading the senior year in high school for a full year of kindergarten.

    This was probably the late 70s.

    In retrospect, I think she was right.

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    As a parent, I'd love to see pre-k and full day kindergarten. I was surprised to come to Oregon and find virtually no pre-k (unless you pay for it yourself at a place like Kindercare or are in Head Start) and optional kindergarten.

    In my home town, kindergarten was mandatory and was being changed into full day. Pre-k was optional, although many parents chose to put their kids into the program.

    Getting kids learning at a young age is very, very important. My four year-old surprises people all the time with the things she knows-- like when she had an allergic reaction to a granola bar here at the Donkey Stable a few weeks back and I had to give her some allergy medicine. She told us she'd be fine once the medicine hit her bloodstream. And that her heart pumps her blood through her body.

    We expose Abby to a lot, let her watch a lot of educational shows with us, read to her, and talk to her about a lot of things. She's a sponge and it's the perfect time for it.

    In many ways kindergarten and pre-k are so much more important than 12th grade.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    First we balance the budget

    Second we honor all the commitments we already have

    Third/last - we add new things to the budget.

    Please remember that all good ideas, and full day kindergarden certainly is one, have a down side. Does every school in the State have that extra classroom available for the full day kindergarden? (Some rooms get double duty with an AM and PM shift). If we add to kindergarden, are we giving less priority to returning State Police to full force, less priority to bringing back a full slate of nursing home inspectors, less priority to making sure the teacher/student ratio is workable in grades 1-12, less priority to the tuition crisis at the State's University/College's???? And what about that rainy day fund to insure that we cover the basics should we get a downturn in State income?

    I wish "good ideas" were just that simple, but they aren't.

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    I fully support this idea. However, we need to move in the direction of teaching actual lessons to this age group versus allowing this to become a $100 million day care program.

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    The research overwhelming supports the notion that full day kindergarten ( and Pre-K) for low income children is an academic and social advantage. Academic performance is on par with other students in later grades. But research for full day kindergarten for the rest of the population does not provide such a consensus. For instance, many of the children who are early readers have a distinct performance advantage through fourth grade but the gap shrinks significantly after fifth grade. Our oldest child was in full day kindergarten. Our two boys have been in half day kindergarten. Our youngest is now a kindi. Were/are they as advanced academically as she was ? No. But a lot of the standards that are pushed for K-2 are out of line with what we know about children's intellectual, emotional and social health. There is a huge range of "normal" development in the years of 5-8. Just because Johnny read at 6 and Jill read at 7 doesn't mean either is relegated to a particular intellectual grouping.

    I do know that neither of my boys would have been ready for full day kindergarten. They still were read to everyday and of course we engage in all manner of conversations.

    Now that there are so many states that do have full day kindergarten, it will be interesting to see if the findings hold up. I could just be a little reticent that adult objectives are constantly encroaching on childhood. I fully comprehend that the skills needed to achieve in a global economy are far more comprehensive than generations past. But are we buying into the idea that education is solely for the development of skills and intellect that will make them good little workers ?

    It certainly would ease the burden of working parents and that is not a notion to be entirely dismissed. Daycare is a huge expense for many families. Woulda, coulda, shoulda is a moot point. Would some of those parents actually be able to work less hours and spend that time with their children ?

    I do believe that it would have benefited many of my current students who are overwhelmingly poor and many of them are ELL as well. Instead of being immersed in a literature rich environment with lots of enrichment opportunities ( field trips, clubs, etc..) most of them were probably propped in front of the boob tube for inappropriate amounts of time in poor quality but affordable daycare.

    I know its opening a seperate debate but many of the educational systems we aspire to don't have 5 year olds in school for 7 hours a day. But many of them do have univeral access to healthcare, long term parental leave and cultures that hold education in higher esteem than ours really does.

    Full day for low income schools ? You bet. Is it worth the tax investment for middle class and/or affluent schools ? I don't know.

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    Just FYI : Kindergarten is mandatory in Oregon since the early 80's but it may be matriculated in a private setting of course.

  • LT (unverified)

    As someone who student taught in Kindergarten in another state and then came here almost 40 years ago aghast that Oregon didn't have public kindergarten, I agree this is an important issue. I helped elect a local school board member on the issue of kindergarten before it was mandatory statewide.

    Kindergarten passed the year a legislator commented that his child who'd gone to public school kindergarten at home was just an average student at home but way ahead in Salem where there was no kindergarten. That legislator said something like "All districts have kindergarten, it is just that some call it first grade".

    However, I agree with Steve. The budget debates don't happen in a vacuum. Lots of people (esp. those who drive state highways and seldom see state troopers) are more likely to favor fully funding state police as a higher priority than full day kindergarten (esp. in schools where there is one classroom which does AM kindergarten in the morning and PM kindergarten in the afternoon--or schools where repairing the roof or other maintenance is a funding priority).

    In the real world, budgets fund things according to a list of priorities--no matter how good an idea is. Democrats need to say that list of priorities clearly and specifically instead of being like Republican legislators who say WE MUST HAVE PRIORITIES but never state what their priorities are.

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    That's odd, as I've known several people whose school districts got mad at them because their kindergarten aged kids missed too many days, but in the end the district couldn't do anything because it's not mandatory? This was just in the past few years, and it was in public schools in Oregon. I couldn't tell you the districts, though.


    Funding other things are important, yes. But this is also an investment today that will save us money in the long run. It also makes for more productive parents. Parents who will have little or no daycare costs (and therefore not deducting it from their taxes).

    And no, it definitely shouldn't be day care. The kids should be learning something. Obviously it has to be broken up into small chunks and made fun, but little kids are sponges and it's the best time for them to learn.

    I was lucky enough to enter kindergarten knowing how to read books. My classmates couldn't do that until the end of 1st grade. Wouldn't it be nice if all kids could read by the end of K?

  • zink (unverified)

    The amount of time spent in kindergarten is not as important as what is done during that time. Having worked over a decade in schools, both full-day and half I think half is best for most children. Most are entering from preschool or no school and the transition is often too much for them. The rhetoric about "competing in the 21st century" is immoral. These are our children and citizens, not raw material for the economy. The priority in many schools now is to teach test-taking skills. Yes, even in kindergarten. Many kids are not ready for all that is demanded of them and this can cause long-term damage. I vote for socialy and emotionally healthy children and would support a full day only if the emphasis was on reading, arts and with lots of time to play (they're 5 remember), not a rigid curriculum to prep future test takers and employees.

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    First we balance the budget

    Second we honor all the commitments we already have

    Third/last - we add new things to the budget.

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Steve. This is absolutely correct.

    Progressives have an opportunity to restore commitments to public education that we've already made but have failed to meet for many years.

    I'm honestly a bit appalled that there's a push for full day kindergarten when for the last 10-15 years, Oregon has been slashing school budgets on the whole. Based on a whole slew of data, Oregon's elementary students are faring relatively well. The areas of public education that need addressed are at the middle and high school level. And then higher education.

    Those upper grade students have had their government make promises to them that have not been kept. Its time to keep them before we consider implementing something new.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    I'm all for FULL DAY Kindergarten (pay now or later theory), but I hope Oregon schools do not use President Bush's "Reading First" program. I mean the guy didn't even make it though "My Pet Goat", for gosh sakes.

    "Reading First" was pushed by Bushies and a former University of Oregon professor who took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the publisher to say it worked.

    Oregon's Kindergarten kids should be using a proven reading program from a lady named Dr. Cindy Cupp, in Savannah, Georgia. The NY Times profiled her very successful phonics-based reading program yesterday, but the former U of O professor would not comment to the reporter on all the money he made pushing an unproven program on our kids. "No comment", he screamed.

    Here's the link to a proven reading program thats only issue is it was not pushed by the Bushies and the GOP.


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    If full-day kindergarten will just be used to push an academic environment on 5 year olds, count me out. As zink noted so well, they're just not ready, and there's far more to be gained by allowing them to learn socially in that year, rather than forcing a pre-math, pre-reading curriculum on them. It shouldn't be "day care," but there's a lot you can teach programatically that does not involve structured, rote learning. At that age you should still be encouraging kids to fire and strengthen as many neural synapses as possible, to create the biological basis for good learning down the road. And the social interaction piece--how to stand in line properly, how everybody has a role and responsibilities, how to work and play together--is huge at that stage.

    I tend to agree that low-income districts should be where we start with this, if for no other reason than the fact that kids would get 2 good meals instead of 1 each day. Sad but true, that the best thing a lot of kids get from school is a safe building and something to eat. As was just reported, there are at least 13,000 kids in Oregon who go right from school to the streets at 3:30.

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    Jenni: I am sorry if I errored- I am going to have to check that out sometime today , That's great that you read in kindergarten but I actually don't think it's the panacea some might think it to be. There are a lot of kids who simply aren't ready to read in kindergarten and they are JUST FINE. Some of the most brilliant minds in the world were those lovely late bloomers.They aren't doomed to mediocrity if they aren't reading at 6.

    Zink- At this risk of being confused with Rush (shivers) : Ditto.

    Before we pay for full day kindergarten, let's restore the other educational offerings we've slashed to bare bones in elementary and middle school : art, library, music and p.e.

  • Curt (unverified)

    "Before we pay for full day kindergarten, let's restore the other educational offerings we've slashed to bare bones in elementary and middle school : art, library, music and p.e."

    Yeah. I'm really glad the Dems are in power again. But a really quick way to soon be OUT of power would be to initiate a bunch of new ways to spend money. I'm thinking we need to be fiscal conservatives here. Because A)it's the Right Thing To Do, and B)because I don't want the Republicans coming back.

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    Jenni is right. It is NOT mandatory to attend but it IS mandatory to offer.


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    ...at least, according to a survey done in 2001 by the state of Indiana.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    I do agree with many posters that some children are not ready for Kindergarten -- half or full day.

    So, should that be a family decision?

    Or should the district make kids go to Kindergarten?

    Not sure, myself.

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    Kari - Didn't realize out of state links weren't as credible. Here's the OREGON link. It says in much wonkier terms what those people from Indiana said :)


  • Karl Smiley (unverified)

    It would be great to be able to offer full day. some kids would benefit from it. The free daycare aspect would be a boon to some low income, two working parent families. But I agree with Zinc. It wouldn't be a good thing for all kids.

    In MHO doing something about the over sized classrooms and cutting of so many valuable subjects and teachers should be a higher priority. So is doing something about the sky rocketing cost of higher ed. In my time it was practically free. Now there are so many more bright, qualified kids who can’t afford even the junior colleges. That hurts us all.

    Some day it would be a good thing to offer full day kindergarten . I think we should put what ever money we can find fixing the rest of the system first.

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    I didn't say that making kids read by the end of kindergarten was a good thing. But having the option is great. Our school district, as bad as it was, did screenings of kids when they entered kindergarten. Those who showed signs that they were advanced were put into classes together. They did more advanced activities on top of all the fun kid stuff. To this day, some of the best school times me and my classmates recall was our kindergarten class. We did a lot more lessons revolving around reading, writing, science, and math, but we enjoyed ourselves.

    We had half day kindergarten, with those living on one side of the train tracks going to the morning class and the others going to afternoon class. I was in the afternoon class. While there was an advanced class, there were two of us who were more advanced (we could read). We spent a good amount of time with a teacher's aide, improving our reading skills, working on a computer, etc. This all gave me an early lesson in enjoying school and learning.

    Kindergarten doesn't have to be 100% scheduled pre-math, pre-reading, etc. Obviously it has to be fun and something to keep a five year-old's interest. But it should also be educational.

    Some kids are lucky and have parents who are able to work with them, teaching them colors, letters, numbers, etc. But many, many kids have parents who both work long hours and don't have much time for that. It affects their entire school experience. They come into first grade ill-prepared, which throws everything off.

    Yes, we need to do something to fix the programs we've cut from kids already in school. But we also have to do something to improve the entire school system and experience for those just entering school.

    While I may have hated my school district (which culminated in our lawsuit against the school, Doe v. Santa Fe ISD, Supreme Court, 2000), they did a few things right. Free preschool was available to those who wanted to take advantage of it. Kindergarten was there. So were the arts, P.E., Athletics (for those kids participating in sports), languages, AP classes, etc. We all took IQ tests in kindergarten, and those over a certain level were put into special classes (GT-- Gifted & Talented) and we stayed together all throughout school. This allowed us to have more advanced classes than other students. It also often times meant unique ways of teaching us, such as our "town" in the fourth grade. We had a town, could start businesses, had checking accounts, money, etc. We learned all about accounting, balancing a checking account, managing finances, etc. It also taught us about civics, increased our math skills, and more.

    I think there is a lot we need to do to improve education not only in Oregon, but in the United States. But I don't think we need to continue on a bad path for new students and instead improve things for current students. I think you need to do both, else you end up in the same cycle that never ends.

    I say this not only as a parent of a toddler, but also as someone very interested in education. I've been that way since I was still in school, having run for school board while a senior. I drove my school board crazy, but I always fought for better education. And it's just as important to me now that I'm a parent as it was when I was a teenager.

    It also means that a parent doesn't have to spend $150+/week on daycare. That means either there are more funds for necessities in the household, that the parent doesn't have to work as many hours and can spend more time with their kids, etc. There's nothing like moving up to full-time and then spending 60% of the additional money on someone else watching your child three times a week. It's even worse if you need care five times a week.

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