Wednesday, March 01, 2006


As the battle heats up over LB 228, which would allow for the orgy of spending associated with putting in all-day kindergarten all across Nebraska, here are the simple facts and figures behind why that would be a colossal waste of money that could actually harm children:

1. A Nebraska teacher educator has already shown that kids who have been in half-day programs do better academically and socially than kids in all-day programs.

In a straight-up comparison between half-day and all-day kindergarten in a Nebraska school district, results showed that the half-day pupils scored higher in everything but reading. The half-day kids were better in math, writing, originality, independent learning, involvement, productivity with peers, and approaches to the teacher. They had the least amount of inattentive classroom behaviors, and their teachers had higher academic expectations of them.

The higher scores in reading might be related to the fact that teachers in trendier all-day kindergarten programs tend to use “developmentally appropriate practice,” teaching kids to memorize sight words from a smaller, tightly controlled vocabulary, without necessarily improving their comprehension skills beyond mere word recognition. Meanwhile, more traditional teachers in half-day programs tend toward teaching kids decoding and phonics so that they can read and understand a larger vocabulary and many more unfamiliar words.

The distinction is important because most reading tests are geared toward the sight-word memorization skill rather than the decoding skill. So the kids whose teachers emphasized sight-reading tend to score better on those tests, even though the other kids might indeed have better decoding skills that make them far better readers in the long run.

If the children were given a list of unfamiliar words and asked to pronounce them or use them in a sentence, there’s little doubt that the kids taught to decode with phonics would do far better.

Consider these quotes from the article:

“. . . when a kindergarten child comes from a home already rich in educational experiences, the kindergarten schedule is not going to make much difference.”

“. . . more time spent ‘in school’ did not ensure academic and social/emotional success for young children. It could be said that the quantity of time in a kindergarten day is no more important than the quality of time.”

SOURCE: University of Nebraska at Kearney teacher educator Charlene Hildebrand, now retired, wrote about her study in “Effects of Three Kindergarten Schedules on Achievement and Classroom Behavior” as a December 2001 article for the Phi Delta Kappa Center for Evaluation, Development Research:


2. Even though a lot of the “evidence” and “studies” that are presented to the public and policymakers that suggest that there is academic and social benefit to all-day kindergarten that makes the enormous investment in doubling the kindergarten day worth it, especially for low-income children from single-parent homes, the reality is that in the long run, any advantages “wash out” and the money is wasted.

All-day kindergarten “is unlikely to improve student achievement” in the long term, and may be “immaterial to a child’s later school performance” according to a report on various additions to the early childhood education lineup in American public schools.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, studies have shown slight academic advantages for full-day kindergartners over their peers in half-day programs, but no differences are discernible by the end of third grade – the “washout effect.”

Research promulgated by proponents of all-day kindergarten is limited, at best, in its applicability to middle-class, mainstream students. It’s mostly been done on low-income and mentally retarded youngsters, or suffers from methodological shortcomings such as small sample sizes, high attrition rates, infrequent random selection, and infrequent use of comparison groups.

Early-childhood experts such as David Elkind, author and professor of child development at Tufts University, warn that there has been widespread and inappropriate misapplication of research that indicates that certain interventions for disadvantaged children is beneficial. The same interventions are actually damaging and destructive to the learning of middle- and upper-class children, Elkind said. Their needs are not at all the same. Taking too much time away from free childhood play can be destructive of concentration and attention on down the road, and expecting young children to be able to do things at too young an age can be so destructive of their self-esteem that they develop a bad attitude about learning that cascades into apathy, bullying and even drug and alcohol abuse later on.

Test scores of American children vs. those in socialized schools of Europe show that the decentralized, flexible, mostly home-based preschool system of the United States is superior to the government-provided or mandated preschool in European countries. That’s measured by the fact that U.S. kids do far better on tests than their European age peers in the early grades, and don’t begin to fall behind them until the secondary years. Indications are that, rather than doubling time in kindergarten, U.S. schools ought to look hard at what is NOT happening in the later primary and secondary grades, where quality declines markedly. What we’re doing now gives our kids a better start, and what we’re doing now involves less government, not more.

SOURCE: Article, “Research Disputes Benefits of Early Education . . . Assessing Proposals for Preschool and Kindergarten: Essential Information for Parents, Taxpayers and Policymakers,” by Darcy Olsen, Education Reporter,
www.eagleforum.org/educate/2005/nov05/focus.html and www.goldwaterinstitute.org/pdf/materials/542.pdf

3. Even though proponents of increased taxpayer-provided early childhood education and expanded kindergarten time often claim that every $1 invested in early childhood programs “saves” $7 in remediation, crime and other expenses on down the road, there is no basis in fact for that claim.

The “study” that produced that ratio was done on 123 children from 1962-65. The children were mentally retarded. There were significant errors in the methodology. And the study has never been replicated.

SOURCE: Olsen article, above

4. Children who spend more time away from their homes have more behavior problems than children who have spent more time in their own homes, in early childhood.

“. . . (C)hildren who spend more hours per week in non-parental child care have more behavior problems, including aggressive, defiant and disobedient behavior, in kindergarten.”

That’s according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which studied more than 1,300 children in 10 states over seven years.

The study concluded that family characteristics and the quality of the mother’s relationship with the child were far stronger predictors of the children’s eventual academic achievement than factors in the child’s early child-care and educational experiences.

In addition, Dr. David F. Salisbury, director of the Center for Educational Freedom, pointed out that American preschool children have gotten consistently better on kindergarten readiness tests throughout the past century. That’s an indication that what we have now – a diverse, flexible, mostly parent-paid and parent-driven early childhood education system – is best.

SOURCE: Article, April 2002, “Drumbeat Grows for Universal Preschool: Government Daycare Renamed ‘Early Childhood Education,’”

5. The claim by proponents of expanded early-childhood education, and all-day kindergarten, that we need to invest heavily in preschool and early primary education because of brain development – they say there is an urgency to develop brain cells before the window of opportunity closes in mid-grade school and kids’ brains are no longer as teachable -- is bunk.

There’s no evidence that early intervention is best for optimizing learning in an individual, and in fact, there’s ample evidence that beginning “programmatic learning” at too young an age is counter-productive and even dangerous.

SOURCE: Article, “Quotes and Reflections From Early Childhood Testimony,”

6. The push toward all-day kindergarten is part of a larger redefinition of education as being the way to standardize young children and bring them up to “specs” so that they can be prepared for the workforce.

All-day kindergarten is “an all-inclusive solution to an isolated problem.” A small percentage of American children come to school not knowing the alphabet, numbers or being in good health and so forth. But the needs of that small percentage is driving enormous social change, at an enormous social cost both in dollars and in damaged potential, for the vast majority of Americans.

All-day kindergarten and other expansions of government control into the lives of children is about obtaining government access to shaping young minds, rather than having their minds mostly shaped by their parents and private-sector organizations such as churches, scouts and so forth.

Starting with preschool and all-day kindergarten, children are increasingly being “assessed” like widgets on a production line, this writer contends.

SOURCE: Article, “Just Whose Children Are They?” by Karen Bryant,

7. No child care “crisis” exists, the existing parent-controlled system is working well, and the polls show that the push toward all-day kindergarten and other expansions of government control of early childhood education is being driven by those who will obtain more money and power from that expansion – educrats, politicians and unions – rather than the parents themselves.

Actually, the polls show a wide “disconnect” between what the parents want, and what the educrats want. The vast majority of parents would love to spend more time with their children, but because of high taxes and a high cost of living, they can’t afford to.

This report concludes that “. . . after hundreds of experimental preschool intervention programs over more than 30 years, there is no evidence that preschool benefits children in the long run.”

In fact, in the State of Georgia, which began paying for free preschool for all children a few years ago, results were dumbfounding to the policymakers who made taxpayers pay for that, when it was revealed that the kids who had no “free” preschool did no better academically than the kids who had received the “free” preschool through the state.

Other studies:

n Longitudinal studies of at-risk students show that gains made during all-day kindergarten in the kindergarten year wash out by the end of the first grade year. (Martinez, 1991).

n Students in half-day programs show “less dependency and failure anxiety” than students in full-day programs. (Kansas State Board of Education, Master Planning Kindergarten Committee Initial Report, Feb. 25, 2004)

n Personal and social development is “more pronounced” for students in half-day kindergarten programs than in all-day programs. (Hoffman and Daniels, 1986)

n Half-day kindergartners exhibit “better adjustment skills associated with personal and social growth” than their full-day peers. (M. Brierley, 1987, “Writing to Read and Full-Day Kindergarten Evaluation,” Columbus Public Schools, Ohio Department of Evaluation Services)

n Length of school day did not contribute significantly to end-of-the-year reading performance in the Wide Range achievement test, Woodcock reading mastery test, or the Chicago reading test. (Study of 650 kindergartners in three districts, Meyer L. et. al., 1993, “Effects of Ability and Settings on Kindergartners’ Reading Performance,” Journal of Educational Research, 86(3), 142-160.

n Neither a full-day nor a half-day schedule emerged as clearly superior. (Review of 10 studies by T. Stinard (1982), Synopsis of research in kindergarten scheduling, Grant Wood Area Education Agency, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)


The best book on this topic is “Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk,” by David Elkind, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997, 154 pp., $15. Dr. Elkind is one of the nation's top early childhood experts. He's famous for his books “The Hurried Child” and “All Grown Up and No Place to Go.” He is staunchly against academic kindergartens, all-day programs and early-entry programs. He gained prominence as president of the prestigious National Association for the Education of Young Children although his views are in opposition to much of what that group is promoting today. He is a Tufts University scholar and frequently quoted by other child development experts.

Elkind terms all-day kindergarten as a typical form of “miseducation.” Key quotes from the “Miseducation” book: "Infants and young children accept and participate in miseducation because it pleases those to whom they are attached, namely, their parents, not because they find it interesting or enjoyable. Miseducation can thus invoke internal conflicts and can set the groundwork for the more classical psychological problems such as neurosis. . . ." (p. xiv) "There is no evidence that such early instruction has lasting benefits, and considerable evidence that it can do lasting harm." (p. 4) "What intellectually gifted children need most, then, is not early formal instruction but rather a prolongation of opportunities to explore and investigate on their own." (p. 154)

Another source is “Who Will Rock the Cradle? A Collection of 18 Speeches By Prominent Child Development Experts,” published by Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund, Washington, D.C., 1989, (202) 544-0353, 295 pp., $14.95. Among the key articles: Raymond S. Moore, developmental psychologist, former teacher, principal and school superintendent, university professor, college dean and president, and U.S. Department of Education official. Speech: "Home Grown Children Have the Advantage."

Key quotes: "In our analysis of more than 8,000 ECE (early childhood education) studies under federal grants, we could not find one replicable study which suggests that day-care or kindergarten is desirable for a child who can have a normal home." (p. 87)

"America's decline from an estimated 90 percent literate population in the last century, to only 50 percent today who have survival literacy or better, parallels our scramble to institutionalize children earlier." (p. 90)

(A study showed 500 bright children who entered school early did not realize their potential.) “They tended also to be physically less mature, emotionally less stable, and less likely to exercise leadership than those who were not rushed. . . . (E)arly school entry and formal kindergarten — as demanded by the NEA, other vested interests and uninformed laymen today — not only may result in maladjustment in school, but . . . may have 'an adverse effect on adult life.'" (p. 94)

Also see Moore’s book, “Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child’s Education” (Reader’s Digest Press, 1975), which makes a compelling case for minimizing out-of-home preschool and child care, and delaying the advent of outside schooling, especially for boys.

Bottom line:

The average Nebraska school district spends something like $7,500 per pupil per year. All-day kindergarten would cost somewhat less than that average, since the curriculum is simpler. But still, between teacher pay and benefits, fixed costs, supplies and so forth, it’s quite an expensive proposition. Let’s say $6,000 per pupil, or $3,000 per pupil for a half-day curriculum.

Now think about the fiscal impact of doubling the amount of time kids spend in kindergarten. Compare that fiscal impact to the revelation by this homeschooling mother that she spent $35 in a year of homeschooling her child for kindergarten, with the result that the child can read at the second-grade level:


So she spent ONE PERCENT as much as taxpayers spent on a kindergartner in a half-day program . . . and one-half of 1% as much as we spend on an all-day kindergarten program . . . and yet her kid is reading very well, compared to the scary stats about huge numbers of kids, especially boys, not reading very well even at the end of third grade despite four full years of taxpayer-provided schooling.

Doesn’t it make a whole lot more sense for Nebraska to scrap the idea of all-day kindergarten altogether, and offer to pay parents willing to homeschool their child for kindergarten? We could cut our kindergarten costs across this state severely . . . and improve kids’ reading ability and learning ability unbelievably well.

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