Friday, March 27, 2009
Carlisle School proposes expanding kindergarten
The Carlisle School is considering the addition of one or more full days for kindergarten for the next school year, Superintendent Marie Doyle told the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) at their meeting on March 18. Currently kindergarten students attend school three half days, and two full days (Tuesday and Thursday). The two afternoons are optional and fee-based with a tuition of $775 per student.
Doyle said the additional kindergarten hours would allow more curriculum time for the children to master concepts and skills, would support emotional and social growth, and allow additional time for assessments. Doyle first suggested offering four full days, Monday through Thursday. This would eliminate the need for a kindergarten bus on Fridays, saving the school around $23,000 per year. However, after receiving feedback from parents and teachers, she said she developed an alternative proposal of three full days and two half days. This would not bring any cost savings but it would allow an additional three hours of instruction per week.
CSC member Dale Ryder pointed out the Concord Public Schools’ kindergarten classes “has a three full day, two half day model. They did a study, it took nine years,” she said. “We can assume they did what was needed” in reviewing the possible kindergarten structures, she added. “I’ve talked to a number of incoming parents,” she said, and most were positive about the possibility of increased kindergarten hours.
Kindergarten is mandated, attendance is not
Committee member Bill Fink asked if the second half of the additional day would be optional. Doyle replied she would prefer it to be mandatory, but to do so would mean the school could not charge a fee. “So if it is optional,” asked Fink, “are we under any obligation to provide buses for students who ‘opted out’ of the afternoon classes?” Doyle said she would check on this. Currently buses are not offered for students who do not stay the full two days, she explained.
By law, all schools in Massachusetts must offer 425 hours of free kindergarten, which is approximately five half days. However, attending kindergarten is not mandatory. Students must start school in Massachusetts at age six whether or not they have attended kindergarten. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DOE) is encouraging schools to transition kindergartens to full days. The DOE offers a number of grant programs to assist in the increase of hours, according to the “Report on the Kindergarten Development Grants: Transition Planning for Full-day Kindergarten.” (www.doe.mass.edu/research/reports/0109kindergarten.pdf) Many schools in Massachusetts offer full day kindergarten, and some charge up to $4,000 in tuition for the non-mandated hours.
Research supports short-term benefits
According Jonathan A. Plucker and Jason S. Zapf, authors of “Short-Lived Gains or Enduring Benefits? The Long-Term Impact of Full-Day Kindergarten,” published by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at the Indiana University, though it is clear students benefit during their kindergarten year by attending full-day classes, there is inconsistent data on whether the benefits continue through the later grades (www.ceep.indiana.edu/projects/PDF/PB_Spring_2005_Full_Day_Kindergarten.pdf.)
Doyle brought up the question of teacher salaries, since increasing the class length creates an increase in hours for the kindergarten teachers. Currently kindergarten teachers are paid 0.8 of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) and negotiations are underway on how compensation will be handled. The current fee paid by parents might increase, said Doyle, to cover the additional three hours. For example, if the current fee is pro-rated ($775 for six hours) the three extra hours could cost an additional $377, bringing the tuition to $1,152.
Doyle told the CSC she would like to move up the vote on the additional kindergarten hours “to April because parents said they have child care issues” if changes are made. School Committee Chair Chad Koski said, “I think everyone at the table is positive” about the increased hours. ∆
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