Letter: Full-day K develops skills

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To the editor,

As the educational leader of the Region 16 schools, I would like to address my position on full-day kindergarten. As parents, educators and state leaders, we have a duty to provide our children with the tools necessary to succeed in life. A large part of this responsibility entails helping them build a solid educational foundation. Full-day kindergarten allows young students to develop strong academic, social and emotional skills. All children in full-day kindergarten classes demonstrate greater reading and mathematics gains than those in half-day classes. Full-day kindergarten also supports children at risk of school failure. Viewing half-day kindergarten as a vehicle for saving money is shortsighted. Research shows that investments in quality early childhood programs generate returns of 3-to-1 or more by lowering grade retention and dropout rates later in children’s school careers. (National Education Association-neag.org)

Research has proven that full-day kindergarten shows increased student achievement, specifically in reading and mathematics. It produces happier healthier children, a stronger bridge to structured first grade learning, and benefits to parents and teachers. These include but not limited to additional time to work on a diversified and inclusive curriculum; which includes increased time for literacy and mathematics while maintaining other developmentally appropriate practice such as creative play and student academic choice. (National Education Association-neag.org)

I believe that the future of our students depends on how well we prepare them for success in college and career in our globally-competitive world. Today it begins with providing children with a rigorous K-12 program aligned to the 21st Century standards embedded in the CT Core Standards. I also believe that moving from our current two-hours-and-75-minute program to a full-day kindergarten experience will put our students on par with 88 percent of the kindergarten students in the State of Connecticut who do have a full-day program.

Long before the arrival of the Common Core Standards, many experts have advocated full-day kindergarten. Children enrolled in half-day programs average only 20 minutes a day of math and just over an hour of reading and writing. Limited, if any, time was available for science and/or social studies. Due to the increase of rigor in curriculum there is not enough time during a half-day program for social and play-based learning. A full-day kindergarten program will provide a balance of academic and social/emotional activities. There will also be a greater emphasis on self-regulation and higher order functioning during a full day. The National Association for the Education of Young Children states that the new standards “are achievable when teachers help children develop positive approaches to learning and … within a learning environment that encourages exploration, a daily schedule with blocks of time for both active and quiet times, a rich mix of teacher-guided and child-directed experiences, and an emphasis on playful learning.”
The Connecticut Common Core Standards, CCSS, is not a curriculum; they define what students are expected to know and be able to do in math and reading, not how teachers should teach. They establish consistent learning goals for all students, in every community, school and classroom. They are clear roadmaps of academic expectations for educators at each grade level. The standards establish what students need to learn, they do not dictate how teachers should teach. We need to have effective teachers and leaders in each school and we need to support parents and guardians to do their part at home.

Furthermore, according to state and national statistics, 67 percent of jobs in Connecticut will require a career certificate or college degree by 2018, but only 47.6 percent of adults in Connecticut ages 25-44 have an associate degree or higher. Our goal is to prepare our students to meet that challenge. The implementation of a full-day kindergarten in Region 16 will afford students the opportunity to build strong academic, social and emotional educational foundations.
Individual districts in Connecticut do not have to adopt the CCSS and the state will not take action against districts. However, the state test, developed by the Smarter Balance Consortium, is aligned to CCSS and the districts that opt not to adopt the standards may realize scores which reflect lower student performance. Additionally, when an attempt was made by some legislators to postpone the implementation of the standards, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents decided unanimously to oppose that move and many superintendents spoke publicly in favor of the Common Core.

Region 16 will place emphasis on the foundational skills associated with Common Core, communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking skills. We will continue to train teachers on how to “unwrap the standards” to create engaging and challenging educational experiences that address the individual and diverse academic, social and emotional needs of our students. We will focus on improving learning for all students; all students can and should learn more through raised levels of expectations. As any good learning organization, we will continue to evaluate and revise our instruction based upon students’ needs, teacher practices, and community wants in Region 16. A full-day kindergarten program is educationally sound and a critical indicator to any high-performing district.

Michael Yamin

Superintendent of Schools

Region 16