The launch of all-day, everyday kindergarten in the Groveport Madison Local School District has gotten off to a promising start for the 2007-08 school year.
According to Kevin Scott, director of personnel and special education, the all-day, every day kindergarten program has been so well received that attendance has jumped significantly. At last count, the district had 461 kindergarten students enrolled for the 2007-08 school year, an increase of 73 students over the 2006-07 enrollment of 288.
"Obviously that’s a good thing," he said. "I believe that has a lot to do with all-day, every day kindergarten."
Last year, the district offered a half-day program held in both mornings and afternoons. The previous year, kindergarteners were in class all day, every other day.
In March, Groveport Madison decided to switch to all-day, everyday kindergarten after learning the district could receive an additional $1.4 million in funding if the program was offered. In addition, the district expected to save nearly $500,000 in transportation costs this school year as a result of the change.
At that time, Superintendent Scott McKenzie pointed out research confirms that children who attend all-day kindergarten learn more in reading and math than their half-day counterparts, and the latest research shows academic gains acquired through all-day kindergarten continue through third grade.
April Bray, the district’s Title I and district test coordinator, said she has heard nothing but positive feedback from district parents, particularly those who depend on after-school care for their kindergarteners. She said all-day kindergarten limits the number of transitions a student makes during a day, reducing strain on both the students and parents.
"There were a lot of working parents who felt it was better with less transition," Bray said. "If they had anything negative to say, it was ‘Why didn’t you do this earlier?’"
The district was not expecting so many students to take advantage of the all-day, everyday kindergarten program, so some last-minute changes had to be made. Two additional kindergarten teachers were hired at the start of this school year, with their salaries paid for through poverty based assistance funding. Scott attributes the increased enrollment to the new programming.
"I don’t get a sense we’d see that much of a jump otherwise," he said. "I think it had to do with adding all-day, every day kindergarten."
A positive change
Bray noted all-day, every day kindergarten has many advantages for the students. Teachers can allocate more time to academic activities such as reading, language arts and math. In addition, students spend more time on self-selected, self-directed activities.
"It’s a full academic day," Bray explained. "They incorporate play with academics. Plus, a lot of the teachers plan their academic activities in the morning when the students are the freshest."
Such a long school day took some getting used to for some of the young students, she admitted.
"The first couple of weeks the kids were tired, but they’re getting used to it," Bray said.
Scott stated the district is hoping the additional academics for the students will pay off down the road with higher test scores.
"I think the chances are awful good that it’s going to," he said.
Bray said that before making the decision to go to all-day, every day kindergarten Groveport school officials contacted Hamilton Local Schools for advice.
"They were a great resource for us and really provided a lot of assistance when we decided we would transition into this," she said.
Bray said statistics showed that after implementing all-day, every day kindergarten in their district, Hamilton students showed significant improvement on their third grade achievement tests.
"The bottom line is (all-day, every day kindergarten) is best for them no matter where they attend," Scott said.
Now that the district has taken this step forward, Scott said, he hopes they don’t have to scale back and return to lesser academic programming for kindergarteners.
"We anticipate it continuing," he said. "It’s something we value."
Scott said it’s not too late for parents to enroll their kindergartners in the program.
"We’re excited about the program and we’re pleased with our numbers," Scott said. "We haven’t closed enrollment. We’d be excited to have more people come and take advantage."