One of the factors complicating the expansion of pre-K is that Kindergarten isn’t secure. Many people are surprised to learn that Kindergarten is not mandated in New York State. In fact, according to a new report from the New America Foundation, “only 11 states and the District of Columbia require their public schools to provide free, full-day kindergarten by law. Alternatively, six states have no statute requiring any Kindergarten at all. And though the remaining states require at least a half-day be provided, 12 allow for districts to require parents to pay for the second half of the day.”
The majority of New York State’s 695 school districts offer full-day Kindergarten. Only 36 districts in the state offer half-day Kindergarten and 11 of these districts – over 30 percent of the state total – are on Long Island:
|East Meadow||Central Islip|
In recent years, Kindergarten has been on the proverbial chopping block during annual budget seasons on Long Island. In wealthy districts, it is assumed that non-working parents prefer half-day programs and can afford to pay for Kindergarten in the private market if they want it. In high needs districts, there aren’t enough funds to support Kindergarten.
The fact is full-day Kindergarten classes have shown better results than half-day classes, where they receive 2-4 hours of class time compared to 4-7 hours in a full-day class. Research indicates that full-day Kindergarten yields:
- Quality instruction
- Teaching strategies that align with children’s learning, e g. developmental centers, child choice time, play, investigation
- Better engagement between teachers and children in activities that develop critical learning skills and self-regulation.
If we are to pursue pre-K expansion, it must be aligned with K-3 education. Continuity of learning is critical and full-day Kindergarten would assure the appropriate developmental trajectory for young children. Now, if we had policies and communities that strengthened and supported parents from the time children are born, we might not need Kindergarten. We could start school at age 7 as they do in the countries such as Finland and Korea, whose 15-year olds score highest on international achievement tests.