Future of all-day kindergarten hinges on override success

Have you walked into a kindergarten classroom lately?

Depending upon your age, it isn't like it was 20 years ago.

Today’s kindergarten programs are more academic and skills-oriented than ever before. Today, schools are responsible to teach all students the expected and set academic standards.

These standards start in kindergarten.

For the past eight years, the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District has provided full-day kindergarten programs for the children of our community. This service to our children has been made possible by the community's belief in the importance of full-day kindergarten and the passage of the district’s budget override.

The literature concerning the pros and cons of full-day kindergarten shows a preponderance of evidence that full-day kindergarten is beneficial for all children. The first benefit for children is the increased academic ability they gain from participating in a full-day kindergarten.

Studies show that children who attend full-day kindergarten score better on standardized tests than did their fourth- and eighth-grade peers who attended half-day programs. Children in full-day programs spend more than two and one-half times in reading/language activities than do children in half-day programs. They are involved in age-appropriate language and literacy development that includes phonemic awareness and phonics.

Mrs. Zale, who has been teaching first grade for 36 years, notes that teaching and learning takes time. The more time children spend in direct classroom instruction, the better chance they will have to learn, practice, and master the skills needed for the next grade.

Teachers teach math skills by engaging children in hands-on math activities. These activities build the foundation for future computation skills. In the kindergarten classroom you will see children working independently and cooperatively as they solve challenging mathematical problems. Math, as well as reading, are the foundations for future success. Full-day kindergarten provides this academic foundation.

Social and emotional growth is another benefit of full-day kindergarten programs. Studies have shown that there are positive long-term effects for children who have participated in full-day programs. The children who have had full-day kindergarten have a significantly higher self-concept, display cooperation skills and they display less withdrawal, anger, and shyness and blaming behaviors than the children who have attended half-day programs.

A full-day kindergarten allows for a greater continuity of day-to-day learning activities while still providing a caring, nurturing environment that is child-centered, developmentally appropriate, and less stressful than a half-day class.

Of all the benefits for children, the last one may be the most beneficial for our community. Studies strongly conclude that not all children come to school with the same advantages. Children from families with sufficient resources are exposed to the experiences that enable them to be more successful in formal education than the children who may have not had the resources necessary to prepare them for school.

Our children who do not speak English, or speak very little, can also be at a disadvantage in formal schooling. They are dependent upon full-day programs to both learn the language and to gain the literacy skills necessary to become fluent readers. Full-day kindergarten serves to help reduce any unwanted disparity between children of different means.

As a community, we have strived to provide all members with an equal chance at success. The previous years of support has demonstrated the community’s commitment to providing a healthy community for all its members.

The Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District’s budget override is up for the community’s consideration again on March 12. Supporting the override maintains our current taxes. It does not increase those taxes. If you are not currently registered to vote, you must register before Feb. 11. You can go to the post office, library, town hall, chamber of commerce, or the motor vehicle division to pick up a registration card.

As you are considering the budget override, please remember that full-day kindergarten is a program that all of us should support. Our support will help children succeed and take their rightful place in being a part of our strong, healthy community.

Oh, by the way, after you register to vote, come by and walk into a kindergarten classroom.

See if it looks like it did 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago.

Shhh, you’ll tell your age.

Barbara U'Ren is the principal at Cottonwood Elementary School.


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