How Does 'K' Factor Into The Education Equation?

With the debate over half day vs. full day K continuing in many communities throughout RI, what are the numbers that really make a difference?

In light of all the statewide response to last month’s ?, and the discussion around the RI General Assembly’s consideration of a full-day K bill (House 2012-7127), the members of the SK Parents Council couldn’t help but talk about life since S “K” went "full day" six years ago.

From these parents’ perspective, it made sense then and it makes sense now.

According to the General Assembly’s press release, “All studies, all statistics show that children benefit academically from participating in full-day kindergarten,” Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston) said. “With three out of every four four-year-olds in the country enrolled in some type of preschool program, kindergarten no longer serves as the entry to formal, full day schooling for most children. In addition to the academic good it serves, full-day kindergarten provides a smoother transition into regular grade school and gives teachers more time to provide meaningful learning opportunities that help cognitive, physical and social / emotional development.”

At the risk of being criticized for comparing children to dogs, there is a lot of truth in the old adage "you can’t teach an old dog new tricks." Just think of trying to learn a foreign language. If our brains are introduced to concepts, ideas and, well, anything at an early age, they are more likely to soak it up like a sponge.

Heck, for one of us moms – okay, it’s me – even after three years of Spanish in high school the only thing I can still say is “¿Dónde está el baño?” which may really only come in handy if I find myself in Mexico and have to pee, but, what good is it if I am trying to converse with a customer or client in any number of businesses in Providence?

However, if I was taught these foreign language skills early on, then I would be more likely to find the bathroom myself or converse with a host of people I might come across in a thriviing urban setting. Doesn't it stand to reason that in order to prepare our children to be productive members of society and be able to compete in the job market of their future, it not only makes educational sense, it makes economic sense to teach our children well when they are young? 

This means providing the resources and exposure to reading, writing and arithmetic-ing sooner rather than later when it becomes much harder and more expensive to support the 10th grader who is still at a fourth grade reading level. Chances are this is an old, frustrated dog trying to survive long enough to graduate in hopes of feeling like he is worth more than the piece of paper his diploma is printed on (if he even gets one).

That brings us to another education bill that is being brought before Rhode Island’s legislature - House Bill 7541 (asking districts to recognize and effectively respond to diagnoses of Dyslexia) and House Resolution 7542 (establishing a legislative commission to study Dyslexia).

If you have a child with an IEP based on his or her struggles with reading and written language skills, or you suspect your child’s school performance isn’t at grade level or are struggling to keep up in these areas, this proposed legislation may be of interest to you.

It’s an unfortunate fact that many school districts have to make very difficult decisions related to their budgets. Things like special education resources or programs like music, art, sports and others end up taking much of the hit. Or when towns claim that drastic measures like closing elementary schools are what’s needed to “balance” things, it’s the youngest learners that have to become more resilient.

In many cases though, the more these younger learners get lumped into the same box, the less likely they are able to succeed at actually learning what is required. The point being that there is tons of research out now supporting the benefits of early childhood learning, the value of All-day-K and supporting the whole child by identifying learning differences when they are young. Providing the right resources, not just the more cost-effective resources, can help them truly build the foundation and confidence they need to not only enjoy learning, but feel like they accomplished more than getting a piece of paper by the time they turn 18.

So what do you all think? Did any of this little rant make sense? Did we make anyone upset with our support of All-Day-K or having more elementary schools versus less or even advocating for spending more on our collective children when they are young so they don’t end up costing us more to educate when they are older? Doesn't having more of the latter  "screw up the data” for our districts?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below. Share the article on your Facebook or Twitter pages or email the group at SKParentsCouncil@gmail.com. And as always, thanks for following the SK Parents Council!

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