Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Washington Learns…....about Full Day Kindergarten

Full Day K has been gaining traction in my area. During our budgeting process this year the principal at the elementary school had a great proposal whereby the kids who were identified as having a deficit would get a full-day program, while the kids who were doing fine would have the traditional half-day setup. I think it was a great idea, and I hope we’re able to get it going in my district soon.

Anyhow, Washington Learns is set to recommend that we provide full day kindergarten programs in Washington State. The trick is, they intend to recommend it, “for all students, at least for those parents who want their child to have such a program.” (page 25). The reasoning is valid; as the report points out, full-day kindergarten has an effect size of +.77, which is huge for statistical purposes.

I think, though, it would be a mistake to suggest a full day for all kids. Look at what happened to Rob Reiner’s initiative in California to provide pre-school for all kids; it failed by a wide margin, and the big knock against it is that it wasn’t targeted towards those kids that would need it the most. I think a much better idea, and one that would be easier on legislators and residents, is to go with the sort of setup proposed for my district where all-day K is provided, but only for those kids who demonstrate a need. You can prove that need through a variety of ways (SES, initial screenings, etc.), but let’s target the money to where it will do the most good and have a chance of getting this passed instead of putting out the pie-in-the-sky proposal and letting it get ripped to shreds.

The funding mechanism for this fairly easy, too. Right now a kindergarten student can only count as .5 FTE (full time enrollment) for funding purposes, since they’re only in school a half-day. If the state would agree to let the kids who are selected for full-time K count as 1.0 FTE, there you go. The districts should have to show cause for why the child was put into a full time program, not with anything like an IEP, but something more like scores below a set benchmark. Keep the record around for when the auditors come, and we have a chance to do some real good.

Full-day kindergarten is a good idea that can make a big difference; I’m glad to see that it’s one of the first things suggested in the report.


Blogger Meredith said...

Does "my parents work" count as a need? I'll be looking for all-day K for my kids not because they will "need" it, but because half-day K would be even more of a pain for my family schedule than the standard school schedule will be already. Or we will then have two tiers of K -- kids who "need" it to catch up, and kids who are already well-prepared who are in it because it works for their families? How do we do that and not go two tier from there on out?

In our district, if you want full-day K you do have to pay for it. I'm not sure whether you are arguing for or against that option.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Ideally I'd love to see full-day Kindergarten for all kids, and if the legislature has the will to make it happen it'd be a great thing all through the spectrum; the higher kids would have more access to enrichment, the lower kids would have more time for remediation. If the recommendation from Washington Learns goes through and the districts are allowed to charge 1 FTE per K student instead of the 1/2 it is now, everyone wins.

I'm just not sure that they'll let it happen, given the budget forecast for next year.

12:35 PM  
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5:01 AM  

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