Wednesday, April 3, 2013

There is SIGNIFICANT Diversity in State Kindergarten Policies

The Education Commission of the States (ECS) reviewed kindergarten policies across all 50 states. This report presents findings on six key components of a kindergarten system: availability, length of day, student assessment, quality of instruction, standards and curriculum, and funding. It is important to note that this is entirely a policy review and ECS recognizes that practice is way ahead of policy in many states.

The report’s findings highlight the significant diversity that exists in state kindergarten policies across and within states. The findings reveal a system of providing the next generation with high-quality, full-day, everyday kindergarten that is highly unequal across the states and perpetuates, if not exacerbates, the achievement gap. The goal of the report is to illustrate the implications of the presence of such diverse kindergarten policies, to raise questions about the implications of that diversity, and to encourage policymakers to consider the impact their state’s policies have on children’s future educational success.

Key Findings:

Districts must offer kindergarten
- 11 states plus D.C. require districts to offer full-day kindergarten.
- 34 states require districts to offer half-day kindergarten.
- Five states do not require districts to offer kindergarten, leaving the decision to school districts.

Children must attend kindergarten
- 15 states plus D.C. mandate kindergarten attendance.
- 35 states do not require that children attend kindergarten.

Why it Matters
- Benefits of kindergarten attendance are clearly supported by research.
- The CCSS are built on a strong foundation that begins in kindergarten.
- Early literacy and mathematics skill- building, and social/emotional competencies are critical for later proficiency and school success.

Length of Day: What Constitutes a Kindergarten Program?
- State requirements for half-day programs range from a minimum of two hours to three-and-a-quarter hours per day.
- Requirements for full-day programs range from a minimum of four hours to seven
hours per day.

Why it Matters
- Kindergarten is an essential part of the foundation upon which future learning and social/emotional development is built.
- Students in one school district might receive more than three times the learning and developmental opportunities than those in a neighboring district. This is an equity and effectiveness issue.
- With the introduction of the CCSS, all kindergarten students will be expected to meet the same rigorous standards whether they spend two hours or six hours per day in the classroom.
- For students who attend high-quality preschool programs, offering continuity in the number of hours they spend in a classroom each year thereafter will avoid disrupting schedules, and support working families so that they do not need to continually adjust childcare arrangements.

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