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To close the achievement gap, the GOP takes away our greatest tool

by Alec on April 21, 2011 · 4 comments

      If a business knew that there was an investment that would double their investment, or save them millions, they’d do it. If there was a family that could invest today in order to save their very way of life later, they’d find a way to do it. There are few guarantees in life, but some things are so good that they are true. One of those proven investments is all day kindergarten for at-risk youth. What business or family would throw away a proven investment? The GOP state legislature seems hell bent on doing just that.

       The current omnibus education bill running through the Minnesota state legislature will cut $28 million from Saint Paul schools , and millions more from Minneapolis and Duluth. Saint Paul serves over 3,000 students in all day kindergarten. The state only pays for half-day kindergarten, so Saint Paul uses integration funding to support full days. The GOP wants to strip that integration funding. Republicans say we cannot afford luxuries like all day kindergarten.

    The reality is, we cannot afford not to provide all day kindergarten. It is a proven investment in bridging the achievement gap. It prepares kids for school better than any catch up program later on in their lives, and it helps overcome any poverty or racial disparities. The students who will suffer the most are the most vulnerable. Integration dollars will be distributed to more Republican districts at the cost of our central cities. Read on and you can see the evidence yourself.
             A great report for our legislators to start with would be from the Minneapolis Foundation .

In Burnsville’s all-day K program, researchers found significant increases
on every academic skill measured by pre- and post-tests, as well as elimination
of the achievement gap among all racial/ethnic groups at the end of the
kindergarten year.

Stillwater credits its all-day K program as partly responsible for later increases
in students’ third grade state test scores.

After a Winona elementary school implemented an all-day K program, the
number of “learning disabled” students dropped by 25%; children’s letter sound
recognition increased 34%; and children’s knowledge of upper and lower case
letters increased 24%.

Minneapolis found that enrollment in all-day K rather than half-day K significantly
narrowed learning gaps between white children and children of color, as
well as greatly increased the gains all children made on key literacy concepts.

Clark County Nevada is the fastest growing school district in the United States. The have a high percentage of students that enter school unprepared to learn, compared to peers nationwide. Language and poverty are two large barriers for Clark County students, much like our own Urban districts in Minnesota. In cooperation with the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Clark County conducted a longitudinal study of all day kindergarten for low income students.

In a 2004-2005 study, the Clark County School District found “a strong positive re¬lationship between a student who attended full-day kindergarten and literacy scores.”

Teachers, schools, and districts are getting hammered by conservatives about the achievement gap. Why is a proven tool being taken away?

In the current 2006-2007 study, research¬ers from the Clark County school system and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas found the positive relationship is sustained, especially for students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunch and who are English language learners.

In these tough budgetary times, what is more expensive: All day kindergarten today, or remediation and grade retention later? The WestEd Policy Group looked at seven comprehensive studies of the affects of all day kindergarten.

Full-day kindergarten can afford children
the academic learning time needed to prepare for mastery
of primary-grade reading and math skills. In doing so,
such programs help circumvent subsequent needs for
remediation or grade retention.

The obvious and proven benefits of all day kindergarten:

Increased school readiness
Improved academic achievement that persists over time
Improved attendance
Support for language and literacy development
Children more socially and emotionally ready for school
Reduce costs of remediation and grade retention.
Full day kindergarten students are twice as likely to remain on grade level

Another unintended cost consequence is the second set of bus rotations needed to take half day students home. Of course, Saint Paul’s transportation costs are eased by integration funds. It’s too bad those are being taken away by the Republican legislature.

The Kansas State Department of Education made the following conclusions:

• Both national and state (Indiana) data suggest that full-day kindergarten appears to have a positive effect on short- and long-term student achievement.
• Data generally support the effectiveness of the full-day program in reducing the number of children who are retained or referred to special education services.
• Students in full-day kindergarten appear to show more positive development in the areas of student social and behavioral skills, including independence, peer interaction, and originality.
• Both national and state (Indiana) studies appear to support the effectiveness of full-day programs in reducing achievement gaps between students of low and higher SES and some racial groups.
• Students in all-day programs adjust to longer days in school without any major difficulties.


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