The literature dealing with junior and, especially, full-day kindergarten is becoming more and more prevalent as more jurisdictions are adopting these programs. But the models and the goals are almost as numerous as the studies.
We know from listening to our early childhood and Division I teachers that these early interventions can help bridge the readiness-for-learning gaps created by socio-economic disparity. This is effective only when the extra time in class is used not to cram in more outcomes but to allow a fuller exploration of what we expect five-year-olds to know at the completion of kindergarten.
The results from such programs are as we might expect: scores go up and grade retention goes down. However, these are not the results I would look for first.
Teachers want what students need, and bridging the socio-economic readiness-for-learning gap is certainly something that is needed.
Creating more time to learn through play fosters an environment where learning is not a chore or a task but rather an adventure filled with discovery and joy. It improves confidence and self-assuredness, which, down the road, will lead to better academic results but with far different attitudes and outlooks on learning than cramming young minds with too much, too soon.
Having children in school all day one year earlier may also help break down socio-economic disparities by allowing parents greater employment opportunities.
It may not be for everyone, and should be optional, but there are many advantages to a well-thought-out and delivered early intervention program for disadvantaged students as they begin their educational journey. Teachers want what students need, and bridging the socio-economic readiness-for-learning gap is certainly something that is needed — needed for equity, and for healthy, happy young learners in our classrooms. ❚
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