CA laying groundwork for full-day kindergarten

CA laying groundwork for full-day kindergarten

(Calif.) The state Assembly passed legislation Wednesday calling for a feasibility study and implementation plan for providing full-day kindergarten in all public schools.

The bill, authored by Assembly Democrat Shirley Weber of San Diego and education chair Joan Buchanan of Alamo, does not contemplate a date for transition to full day kindergarten but calls on the state schools chief to deliver the documents to the Legislature by March, 2015.

The maximum school day in kindergarten is currently four hours, but supporters of the bill said a longer day for early learners would only benefit performance in later years.

“Full-day kindergarten programs allow children an opportunity to strengthen the foundational skills necessary to succeed in school,” Weber said. “These skills, including socialization, following direction and basic critical thinking, are beneficial to the student in both the short and long terms.”

Research has suggested time and time again that quality early education has a sizable impact on language, literacy and mathematics skills later in life, and may benefit a child’s educational career in the long-term.

At a Senate Education Committee hearing last month on a plan to offer one year of Transitional Kindergarten to every 4-year old, Sacramento County sheriff Scott Jones quoted research about children who benefit from early education, saying that they are “44 percent more likely to graduate from high school and are much less likely to commit crimes later in life.”

According to a WestEd policy brief, students in full-day kindergarten tend to be better prepared for primary-grade learning than those in half-day programs. The brief quotes research which found that students who attended full-day kindergarten, opposed to half-day, show significant gains in school socialization and higher reading achievement persisting through third grade, and in some cases, through seventh grade.

Some of those findings can be attributed to the additional time teachers have to spend with students during full-day kindergarten.

“Kindergarten students are being held to new and more rigorous academic standards, such as Common Core, and a full-time program would seemingly aid in their ability to be prepared,” Weber said during Wednesday’s floor session.

She also stated that full-day kindergarten programs are beneficial to working class families who have a hard time fitting the restraints of the standard kindergarten hours into their schedule. Although state law limits kindergarten today to four hours, there is an exception allowing schools that have adopted an early primary program to exceed that.

The feasibility study and implementation plan required under AB 1719, which on a vote of 53-14 now moves to the Senate, will likely cost the California Department of Education between $120,000 and $150,000 to develop.

Part of the cost will go toward creating a task force which will include representatives such as school district superintendents, principals, kindergarten teachers, parents and related pupil support services personnel to advise the state superintendent on feasibility and implementation issues.

Legislation pushing improvements for early education programs, especially pre-K, has seen bipartisan support throughout the U.S. Maryland, New York, South Carolina, Michigan, Alabama and Texas have all recently increased funding for these programs.

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