Victory for children: full-time kindergarten passes

Terrie Alger was skeptical when Pablo Elementary in western Montana launched its optional full-time kindergarten program three years ago.

"I started off very leery of full-day kindergarten," said Alger, a reading facilitator/coach at Pablo. "I thought we'd have kids here crying in the afternoon."

Instead, she said, "I see our kindergartners skipping down the halls. They love school. They're entering first grade with a confidence I've never seen before, reading at second grade levels."

Today, said Alger, full-time kindergarten "is something I would fight for."

[Read what other Montana teachers say about full-day kindergarten.]

[Superintendent Linda McCulloch's testimony on full-time kindergarten]

Study after study shows that full-time kindergarten dramatically improves academic achievement, raises reading scores, reduces behavioral problems, narrows the achievement gap between students, and reduces dropout rates.

Now more Montana children will have the opportunity. Stand Up For Education teamed up with others in Montana's education community to make full-time kindergarten a top priority in the 2007 Legislature. We've also launched a statewide radio campaign about the benefits of full-time kindergarten.

The results:
The 2007 Legislature, in its May special session, appropriated $28 million in funds to help Montana school districts that choose to offer full-time kindergarten, along with $10 million in one-time-only startup funds. This is great news for Montana children!

What is full-time kindergarten?
In full-time (also called full-day) kindergarten, young children stay in school for about six hours (with several breaks), Monday through Friday, instead of just two and a half hours a day.

The added time takes pressure off of children, their teachers, and their families, according to Montana teachers in schools with full-time kindergarten.

Children have more time to learn. Teachers have more time to give one-one-one attention to children, and detect learning problems early in children's lives and give extra help to those who need it.

The result, according to studies and teachers' reports, is children who are more confident, prepared to learn, well behaved, and comfortable in the classroom.

Quick talking points on full-time kindergarten

Nationwide, about 60 percent of kindergarten students attend full-time kindergarten. In Montana, only 25 percent of children have that opportunity.

Funding is a big obstacle. Montana school districts that provide full-day kindergarten have to pay for it on their own.

"We've sacrificed a lot" to pay for full-time kindergarten, said Frank Ciez, principal at Pablo. "We've cut back in just about every area. We have no supply budget. We've cut aides and tutoring."

Still, Ciez wouldn't go back to half-day kindergarten. Neither would Pablo teachers, according to Alger.

Before the 2007 special legislative session, the State of Montana funds kindergarten students at just half the rate of students enrolled in grades 1-6. That made it tough for schools to afford full-day kindergarten. Now, they will get some help.

Several Montana school districts are moving quickly to use the new funding.

[Research on the benefits of full-time kindergarten]

National Education Association fact sheet on full-time kindergarten

[Research on the benefits of full-time kindergarten]

Quick talking points on full-time kindergarten


Stand Up For Education
1232 E. Sixth Avenue
Helena, Montana 59601
(406) 442-4250