- What will we have to give up or “trade off” to make full-day Kindergarten a reality?
- Given the transient nature of our district, what type of return on investment will we see with full-day Kindergarten?
- Are there actually long-term benefits to full-day Kindergarten?
In 2014 the Upper Darby School District formed the Educational Specifications Committee (Ed Specs), and in 2015 the District presented the Ed Specs plan and its goals: establish full-day Kindergarten by 2020; refurbish all schools to accommodate Ed Specs overview; and accomplish this in a “budget neutral manner without raising taxes.” How do you accomplish these goals without raising taxes? Well, that’s where “tradeoffs” come in.
What are the Tradeoffs for Full-Day Kindergarten?
We hope to learn how the District administration plans to implement their goals in a “budget neutral” manner without increasing taxes. Some of the proposals suggested to date include increasing class sizes in every K-5 classroom to a new, higher level that currently exists in some district classrooms; establishing a new method for assigning students to schools based on space available in local schools vs. fixed boundaries or catchment areas; and establishing a new Elementary School Schedule that changes how and if specials (Art, Music, Physical Education, Library) and co-curricular programs (instrumental and band lessons, and chorus) are delivered at the Elementary level. These changes would free up classroom spaces and teachers for full-day Kindergarten by 2020. Note: The High School program is currently being reviewed for additional “tradeoffs” for the coming years.
Mark your calendars for the April 21st and April 25th School Board meetings: 6:30 p.m. in the High School Board Room.
Is Full-Day Kindergarten the Correct Path?
Full-day Kindergarten might sound like a great investment of our tax dollars. Increased instruction time would surely lead to an increase in student achievement. But will it? Mr. Raymond, UDEA President, asked at the April 12th School Board meeting how many of our Kindergarten students will still be in the District in 3rd Grade, 5th Grade, etc. This is a valid question in light of the transient nature of our district. Mr. Raymond cited a study by a former Bywood Lead Teacher, which found that by the end of fifth grade 45% of the student population had changed. [A transcript of the comments is available on this page. ] At Garrettford, it was said that from Spring to Fall they see a 30% change in student population each year. Given the transient nature of our district, would it be better to invest in smaller class sizes at the Elementary Level and increased academic supports?
What About the Return on Investment?
Another question to consider is how much additional instruction time will actually be realized with full-day Kindergarten, given the need for lunch, recess, related arts classes, bathroom breaks, etc. A meta-analysis in the Review of Educational Research (Cooper, Batts Allen, Patall, Dent 2010) notes that regardless of length, the content and instructional strategies used are paramount to success. That same analysis also found that while full-day Kindergarten has a positive association with academic achievement, the association disappeared by third grade. A report by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy concluded that “while full-day Kindergarten leads to higher standardized test scores than half-day programs, this effect appears to fade within a few years.” Knowing that the positive effects of full-day Kindergarten may fade or disappear within a few short years, would you still be willing to make the necessary tradeoffs for this change?
More study is surely needed to determine whether full-day Kindergarten is the correct path for UDSD.
If I Can Only Attend One Meeting, Which Meeting Should I Attend?
On Thursday, April 21st at 6:30 p.m. in the high school board room, the Upper Darby School Board will host a special meeting to review and discuss the Educational Specifications Plan. Things to listen for at the 4/21 meeting: class sizes; teacher attrition; and flexible boundaries, that is, no fixed catchment areas for the elementary schools.
On Monday, April 25th School Board Committee meeting at 6:30pm, the new proposed Elementary School Schedule will be presented, as well as the final presentation on the new Special Education Plan. Things to listen for at the 4/25 meeting: specials instruction; instrumental, band and chorus instruction; specifics on the new, fifth special; Special Education; LRE; and Penn Data.