Friday, June 10, 2005
ALL-DAY KINDERGARTEN FUNDING WOULD BE A BIG, BIG, BIG MISTAKE
It broke my heart Thursday to read that some of the nicest, richest people in Omaha are donating nearly $6 million to pay for the expansion of all-day kindergarten throughout the Omaha Public Schools, and the State Board of Education is pushing to mandate all-day k throughout the state by 2008.
No doubt the educrats kept the truth from the foundations and the State Board in going after the start-up capital that will double the time in school spent by these itty bitties, when readily-available evidence shows that young children are better off NOT in organized, structured, government settings.
It was easy for me to find conclusive evidence that all-day kindergarten does nothing for kids academically in the long run, and is not at all cost-effective for mainstream kids.
Besides the two well-documented studies at the bottom of the column, below, the fact that all-day k is a bomb was in a Jan. 26 story in Education Week (www.edweek.org), the educrats’ Bible.
How come OPS and the State don’t seem to be able to find out the facts that don’t dovetail with their plans for more spending and more control over kids? We all know the answer to that: they don’t WANT to know. But the rest of us do, and should.
According to the research, children who are low-income and non-English speaking do benefit from more time in organized preschool and all-day kindergarten, although the benefits wash out within three years. But anything schools can do to effectively bring kids up to speed, I’m for.
Here’s what should happen: that $6 million should be returned to the donors so that they can direct it to where it’s really needed. Blessings to the Lozier Foundation, the Susan A. Buffett Foundation, the Holland Foundation, and the William and Ruth Scott Foundation, for being so willing to help people. But this is not a good idea, and someone should tell them.
Then the State Ed Department and school districts should be made to greatly decrease the all-day kindergarten programming they now offer so that it is only for the small percentage of the small children who might benefit from it.
The REST of the small fry should go back to where they flourish, at that age: in their own homes with their own families, or in private, unsubsidized, play-oriented day-care centers and homes.
Be sure to share this one across the state, because it’s important:
Is All-Day Kindergarten Worth the Money?
Q. Is the push nationally to switch our schools to all-day kindergarten likely to pay off academically for our kids, or is it just about funneling more money into schools and giving parents free day-care at taxpayer expense?
It appears to be the latter. Academic gains by children in full-day kindergartens are modest, compared to those in half-day programs. Moreover, those gains diminish to insignificant levels by first grade, and completely disappear by third grade in a phenomenon called “fadeout.”
Key federal research indicates that for the vast majority of kindergartners, all-day kindergarten is a waste of time and money, although there is evidence that it can be a help to low-income and non-English speaking children.
This is according to the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study of the National Center for Educational Statistics, www.nces.ed.gov/ecls
Researchers started following 22,000 children at kindergarten entry in 1998, and recently reported their third-grade status reflecting the “fadeout” effect of all-day k.
Among other findings, the study reported that kindergarten “readiness” is in great shape in this country: 97% of the children come to school in excellent or good health; 94% can read numerals, recognize shapes and count to 10; 92% are deemed eager to learn, and 82% already have basic reading skills such as knowing that you read print from left to right.
Defenders of expanded government preschool and full-day kindergarten claim that for every $1 spent on early schooling, society saves $7 in “social costs” on down the road. But that figure has been thoroughly discredited; it stems from a 1960s study of just 123 mentally retarded children; that cost-benefit ratio has never been replicated.
Despite the utter lack of effectiveness, though, full-day kindergarten is being implemented at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars for added staff and space in schools nationwide. Nine states mandate it, seven offer financial incentives, and most districts either have it or are planning it.
The full-day schedule is popular with working parents because it saves on child-care expenses and transportation headaches. Teachers like it because they say they have more time for enrichment activities, assessing children individually, and building better relationships with parents.
However, child psychologists say improper early instruction with “time on task” in structured settings may be a key cause of the current epidemic of learning disabilities. And it denies children what they really need: free time for self-directed play, and a chance to be reared and shaped mostly by Mom and Dad, who know and love them best.
Homework: Two excellent and related articles on this topic are available from Arizona’s Goldwater Institute, www.goldwaterinstitute.org/article.php/542.html and the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, www.tennesseepolicy.org/publications/studies/52005_1.pdf
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