As reported in Patch recently it appears the Board of Education is poised to jump on board with the rest of the all-day kindergarten proponents.
The consequences are huge. Just the cost alone is one that will have a significant impact on the town, and it’s not a one-time cost. We’re looking at a minimum of $500,000 more in annual expenditures every single year.
In spite of this there’s a growing chorus of people who insist this is the route we must go. In fact, just about the only group rejecting it is the perennial chorus of those who can do nothing but scream “no, no, no, no, no, no…” You get the idea.
The campaign has been going on for some time but it gained even more momentum with the presentation made by Sandy Hook School principal Dawn Hochsprung.
I watched that report, did a little research of my own and you know what? If school officials are hanging their hat on the argument “the research supports it,” they had better take another look.
The fact is the “research” is decidedly mixed. Some report long-term educational gains for those children who had a full-day kindergarten program while others report no significant gains.
I went to several websites, one of which specializes in gathering data from many different sources (Questia). Some of the research projects cited go back to 80s and 90s.
The only exception to any of this involves children who are traditionally considered to be at-risk. That would include kids from lower socioeconomic families and English as second language.
Ms Hochsprung’s report made two basic points: Everyone else in the area is doing it so we should be and kids today need more time to develop things like fine motor skills, cutting and coloring, letter/number recognition and other skills in order to meet the growing expectations of first grade.
But I wonder about the second point. For example my grandchildren have been working on these very skills on a regular basis — in preschool.
Consider: Anyone my age probably didn’t go to kindergarten much less preschool. In fact the whole concept of preschool is a fairly recent development. Remember when it used to be called simply day care?
No more. My grandsons went to Trinity Day School and now a preschool named The Learning Experience both located in Newtown. My granddaughters went to Great Expectations in Southbury. There are many, many more very fine places — all of which make no reference to “day care.” The emphasis is always on learning the very skills we all learned in kindergarten or even first grade.
When you factor in the presence of various types of technology in your average family now (see pictures), it’s hard not to see how our kids are getting a big jump on things.
The question is how many Newtown children are enrolled in these kinds of programs? I don’t have the answer to that. It could be an important factor.
So what we’re left with is the argument that most if not all of the towns either surrounding Newtown or those in Newtown’s DRG are going the full-day route, so we better too.
Having said that, I still think it's an idea whose time has come. If nothing else, we can be added to the research pool in an effort to measure any long-term gains.
But the curriculum needs to be adjusted so that there’s continued emphasis on literacy and numeracy skills with technology as an important tool. (By the way, in Ms Hochsprung’s presentation she mentioned Language Arts several times but with the exception of a passing reference to “patterns” there was no mention of mathematics or numeracy. I wonder why. It’s in this area that our nation’s students are most lacking.)
And there you have it, One Man’s Opinion.