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Board Raises Questions About All-Day Kindergarten

Do EXCL students have an academic advantage? Would it require 13 new teachers?

The initial discussion of full-day kindergarten at the Farmington Board of Education meeting involved an onslaught of questions before members could begin to look toward a decision. 

The board raised dozens of questions and requested data from administrators about issues ranging from students’ current success to cost to space considerations.

“The takeaway is that Farmington does not rush head-on into something without being thoughtful, prepared and research-based and that’s how we’re going to approach this conversation,” school board Chairman Mary Grace Reed concluded.

Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Greider indicated that she brought the issue to the board in part because the community has asked for it and because many of the other districts to which Farmington compares itself (District Reference Group B) have switched to a full-day program.

Towns that have moved to a full-day program in the past year include Brookfield, Simsbury, Glastonbury, Granby, New Fairfield and Trumbull, with South Windsor hoping to implement the program in 2013-14.

Notably, Avon, Cheshire, Guilford, Madison, Monroe, Newtown and Region 15 have not.

Staff and board members noted that Farmington, through its EXCL program, offers full-day kindergarten at a cost, with 43 percent of Farmington kindergartners participating.

Still, one of the major reasons for moving to full-day kindergarten for some districts is equity. While some children come to school prepared, usually after attending preschool, others have some catching up to do.

Board member Betsy Kaplan asked whether an academic achievement gap is evident between those students who attend EXCL – noted as a seamless extension of the kindergarten class – and those who do not.

Greider said that while that information is not currently known, the district uses reading recovery specialists and interventions to help those students who need extra help. And test results bear out the method’s success, she said.

Already Achieving

In Farmington, Greider said, 89 percent of kindergartners in June of 2012 were meeting the end-of-year standards for reading; 89.2 percent for math; and 87.1 percent for writing.

By third grade, the numbers are even higher, with Farmington scoring at the top of the DRG.

Another reason other districts have given is to prepare for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards – something Farmington is already doing.

Cost

Greider said she couldn’t estimate the possible cost of shifting to all-day kindergarten, but she said that this year the district has 13 sections of kindergarten. Currently, some are in the morning and some in the afternoon, allowing one teacher to teach two classes during the day.

Board member Jon Landry asked Greider if that would mean the district would need to hire 13 new teachers. She said the number of teachers needed would depend on enrollment projections.

The smaller district of Granby moved to all-day kindergarten this year, adding 3.5 new teachers to the district and 3.5 new paraprofessionals, at a cost of just under $300,000, according to The Valley Press.

But Granby and Simsbury, which made a quick decision to make the switch last year, are funding their programs through grant money by accepting an increased number of Project Open Choice students. The grant money is tiered: the higher percentage of Open Choice students, the higher the individual reimbursement rate, with the highest payout for taking kindergartners.  

The board will wait for Greider to collect information regarding its questions before resuming the conversation at another board meeting.

Mark Blore October 02, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Basically, there seems no point in doing it since our scores are high under the current system. Leave it alone and let 5 year old kids be kids. 57% go home before or after the K class - why would we force them into a full day schedule? Not every child is the same and our K program should continue to allow that diversity.
Kaitlin Glanzer (Editor) October 02, 2012 at 01:04 PM
To your point, Jon Landry asked if any research indicated that there is "too much" for a child that age to handle. And at least one parent at the meeting spoke against all-day kindergarten. On our Facebook page a number agreed all day is too long for a 5-year-old.
Veronica October 02, 2012 at 01:47 PM
For me it's not just about "too much" but also about it being unnecessary. My oldest is in 5th grade and while he did half day here my friend's child did full day elsewhere and by the end of the year she was NOT ahead of him. With full day programs comes more breaks...rest time, lunch time, recess, etc...and anyone who has ever dealt w/a group of 5 yr olds knows how much time and effort it takes to get them back on task after a distraction. The teachers here in Farmington are amazing and do an amazing job with our kids. My 5th grader has gone to Union K-2, West District 3-4 and now West Woods and EVERY teacher he has worked with has been not just good but imo exceptional. Will standards suffer when we need to DOUBLE the Kindergarten staff or will we not hire enough teachers and just stuff more kids in a class so that they aren't getting the one on one attention they need at that age? The numbers and test scores speak for themselves. Farmington kids are doing amazingly well w/o a full day program. Why fix it if it ain't broke?? The parents for which half day is an inconvenience probably work and it can be assumed have been paying for daycare up until now so they can pay for their child to do the Excel program before/after school.
Bill Stanford October 02, 2012 at 02:49 PM
It would be interesting to find out what the 53% of kindergarten students who do not attend EXCL are doing the rest of the day. Given how few parents are able to stay home with their children, I suspect that most children already spend “all day” outside of the home. If, as I suspect, 80-90% of children are already in some sort of “all day” kindergarten program, then the real issue is whether the town or parents should pay for the 2nd half of the day.
Paul Chotkowski October 02, 2012 at 03:25 PM
I missed the meeting so I am relying on Ms. McCallum’s article [thank you]. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am one of those “evil capitalist” who allegedly will never pay their “fair share” until all of my earnings are "patriotically given" to the State & are subsequently eligible for socially-just government-supervised redistribution. I still have this quaint old-fashioned expectation that I receive value for my expenditures even those that are extorted from me & my family [especially when the spending is done in the name of the collective good]. Please consider this post to be a vote of NO CONFIDENCE in SOS Greider! She indicated that “she brought the issue to the BOE in part because the community has asked for it” but “she couldn’t estimate the possible cost” nor apparently the value to be received from the expenditure. Ms. Greider let me be clear, if any senior manager in any organization I have worked with over the last 30 years came to me asking me to support a new program, without a clear & compelling cost benefit analysis in support of our organization’s strategic goals & with the sophomoric justification that “others are doing it so we should do it too!” I would have terminated her on the spot for rank incompetence. Fear not Ms Reed will probably propose that you receive a bonus but as Bubcia would have said “best to stay away from any high bridges, if you see someone jumping off, you might take it for encouragement to do the same”!
Tom Slater October 03, 2012 at 08:03 AM
I have a unique perspective on this possible policy change. I was once a Board of Ed guinea pig at Noah Wallace for all day Kindergarten, back in '89-'90. We had a teacher, Mrs. Hammer and an aide, whose name I can't remember. The morning was instructional for the most part with a brief snack time. We then had lunch with extended recess, followed by a reading session where a book was read and students were given mats to rest on. Then the last part of the day was instructional. I distinctly remember how uncooperative we were in the afternoon instructional session and multiple times had the principle in the room to assist the teacher and aide with controlling us students. It was a long day to ask the students to sit through and a lot to ask of a teacher to try to keep the attention of a 4-5 year old for roughly 6.5 hours. I would hope the Board goes back and looks at any of the previous experiments that have been done with all day kindergarten before making a decision.
Andy & Jean Baron October 23, 2012 at 01:11 AM
I attended this Board of Education meeting, and am surprised by the comments of Mr. Chotkowski. The Superintendent's agenda documents introduced the agenda item stating..."the Farmington BoE and administration will have an initial discussion regarding Farmington's current kindergarten program and the status of full day options in Farmington's district Reference Group." The meeting was exactly as described; an initial discussion. The Superintendent provided the BoE and community, information on: Farmington's current kindergarten program, including achievement data; other districts that currently have or will be implementing all-day kindergarten; and the education interventions that Farmington elementary schools have for children in K and 1st grade. Precisely the thorough information our community expects from an initial discussion. The hallmark of the Farmington Public Schools is to be thoughtful about educational initiatives, to study data and for the BoE and community to sift through this information together. The Superintendent and BoE Chair, made it clear that the Board was in the initial stages of evaluating an all-day K program and would have several public meetings on the topic. To say the Superintendent provided anything other than a balanced presentation is grossly inaccurate. Mrs. Greider and Mrs. Reed provided an environment for thoughtful initial discussion and clear direction for the next steps in the evaluation process.
Paul Chotkowski October 23, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Why waste time on a discussion about something that is not in your Strategic Plan? The Plan was adopted in 2005 & has been updated 5 times since! To the best of my knowledge and review [if I am wrong my bad please cite chapter and verse so I can be properly schooled] there is nothing in the town’s Strategic Plan or subsequent updates that indicates that all day kindergarten is required to meet the town’s stated educational goals. The BOE allows itself to get distract with every change of political wind or grumpy parent who wants to park their child in all day classes at the town’s expense! Why is the SOS and BOE wasting time on items that by the very fact of its omission from the town’s Plan, IS NOT STRATEGIC! And if you are going to propose that something be “studied” and “funded” by the BOE that is not in the Plan then you better present a darn good reason why you are spending scarce management time and financial resources on something that was not “Strategic” as recently as March of 2012 when the Plan was last updated. “Best Practices” this isn’t! Let me be blunt. Before any time or money is spent on the issue before the next Strategic Plan update, where is the data that indicates / supports that an expenditure of X dollars on all day Kindergarten will improve the town’s performance / outcome on key performance goals and why is this particular expenditure the best way to achieve this level of improvement. Its called management not politics!

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