Parents present plea for all-day kindergarten

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By Phyllis McLaughlin

The Trimble Banner

Of the 174 school districts scattered throughout the commonwealth, 11 still offer half-day kindergarten.

Trimble County parents are hoping to convince the Board of Education to bring that number down to 10.

“I was appalled we were one of those districts,” said Tara Isley, a parent and a teacher at Milton Elementary School.

Isley researched the topic and, backed by a handful of other parents, addressed the board at its regular meeting Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Isley said the district seems to have gotten something backward, by offering all-day Head Start (a federally funded program) to preschoolers, who then move on to half-day kindergarten before attending full time again in first grade.

“The children are lucky to get two hours of instruction a day,” Isley said, calling morning and afternoon sessions a “rat race” for teachers who are trying to cover everything that’s required.

With Head Start being the only preschool available in the county – a program that is limited by family income and other guidelines – most children are not prepared when they enter kindergarten.

“We have a lot of kids who aren’t reading; some don’t know their colors,” she said. “They are kind of set up for failure. ... To score proficient on CATS tests in third grade, they have to be reading in kindergarten.”

While MES met its goals for the federal requirements of No Child Left Behind, which are based on the Kentucky Core Content Tests, Bedford Elementary and Trimble County Middle School both missed goals established for reading. At BES, the goal was for 67.04 percent of students to score proficient; only 58.42 percent reached that level. At TCMS, the goal was 66 percent; the actual percentage of students earning a proficient score was 59.38.

“All-day kindergarten practically guarantees to benefit the test scores,” Isley said. “It gives teachers more time to assess students and meet their needs directly.”

Isley said studies show children in half-day kindergarten advance by 5.4 months, while children in all-day kindergarten advance a full 16 months.

“They are better prepared for first grade. ... And research has proven there are no detrimental effects on children who attend all-day kindgarten.”

Board Chairman Jill Simmons said all-day kindergarten has been a topic discussed often at board meetings.

“I don’t think there is anyone on [the board] who would deny that this would be a great thing to have,” Simmons said, but added that getting the funding to establish such a program is the key hurdle.

Isley said she and other parents would be willing to pay tuition, if necessary, rather than spending the money on child care when her daughter enters kindergarten next year.

Superintendent Marcia Haney-Dunaway said the matter has been studied, and that extending kindergarten to all day would cost the district about $100,000 in additional teacher and instructional aide salaries and benefits.