As a father, Chris Bright admits he was a little nervous about dropping off his daughter Kelsey for her first full-day kindergarten class.
“Going into it I thought that maybe that was too long for her,” said Bright, standing outside George Fitton School on Thursday morning with his daughters Kelsey and Madison by his side.
“She just did preschool twice a week, half-days, so to go from that to a full day I thought was going to be too much.”
Instead, the full-day kindergarten class had the opposite effect. The usually “shy” Kelsey, who is now in Grade 1, adjusted well to full day classes.
“She did really well and it turned out fantastic,” Bright said. “She’s actually pretty shy, so I think the full-day thing helped her socialize.”
This is just one instance of positive feedback the Brandon School Division is hearing from parents and teachers when it comes to the effects of full-day, everyday kindergarten.
The initiative was launched as a pilot project for the 2011-12 school year in four elementary schools, with a fifth added this past school year.
But to further expand all-day, everyday kindergarten to other schools, trustees said they needed more hard data before they could lobby the province to get behind the initiative and provide funding.
But with the all-day, everyday kindergarten program now entering its third year, the division has data to prove the full days are having a positive effect on student achievement.
“What it’s telling us is that students in full-day, everyday kindergarten are showing great growth in phonological awareness and also in all of the core areas that we are assessing at the end of June,” said BSD research and evaluation specialist Marnie Wilson. “There’s a clear, clear message there.”
Despite starting the year with lower scores, when compared with half-day kindergarten students, full-day students are ending the year meeting more phonological awareness expectations, according to the division’s 2012-13 Student Achievement Summary Report. Phonological awareness is defined as an individual’s awareness of the phonological (sound) structure of spoken words.
Phonological awareness is considered an important indicator of a student’s future reading.
When tested in the fall, 16 per cent of students in full-day kindergarten were meeting phonological awareness expectations, but by spring, 80 per cent were meeting expectations. While 35 per cent of students in half-day kindergarten were meeting expectations, by spring, 72 per cent were meeting expectations in phonological awareness.
While dropping off her daughter Sophie for her full-day kindergarten class at George Fitton School, Brianna Mercure said reading, dance time and writing are all part of her daughter’s regular school day.
Unlike some parents, Mercure said she was confident her daughter would do well in full-day classes at an early age.
“I think she can handle it,” Mercure said. “She’s got so much energy and she’s just right in there.”
Another parent believes the full-day classes will help his daughter succeed in the future.
“I think it’s better to get them in there for a full-day class for the sheer fact that it gets them ready for further on in school,” Trevor Ellis said. “It’s a positive transition.”
A built-in play-based model for teachers was also part of integrating full-day kindergarten classes into the division.
“Kindergarten students are young and that’s why the play-based component is so vital for these programs,” said George Fitton School principal Gail McDonald.
“It was so encouraging to see these kids really having fun, really engaged and enjoying what they’re doing and learning so much, it was an awesome project to be a part of,” she said.
McDonald was one of the lead teachers involved with implementing full-day kindergarten classes and said the overall results have been impressive.
“It was incredible to see the difference, even in the phonological achievement scores in the beginning of the year to the end of the year and how we really focused on building that really rich language component that’s so vital to have kids succeed, especially in literacy activities.”
There’s also a large socializing aspect to the full-day classes, she said.
“Watching the songs, the chants, the way the kids interact, the friendships are established. Grade 1 was a piece of cake this year because the kids had been here full-day every day,” she said. “Anxiety was lessened I think, 100 per cent. It’s very, very encouraging.”
Another member of the school division was also pleased to hear about the positive impacts full-day classes are having on students.
“It’s based on best practices and research and so we’re really, really pleased with what’s happening in our kindergarten classes,” BSD Supt. Donna Michaels said. “Everybody’s amazed.”
Results from an Ontario Ministry of Education study released earlier this month also showed the benefits of full-day kindergarten classes.
The study measured the progress and development of students who were enrolled in full-day kindergarten compared to those in half-day kindergarten.
According to the study, in every area, students improved their readiness for Grade 1 while reducing risks in social competence, language and cognitive development and communication skills, as well as general knowledge.
Bright also attributes the full-day kindergarten class for helping his daughter transition smoothly into Grade 1 this year.
“She’s doing fantastic,” he said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 21, 2013