Children attending full-day, every-day kindergarten in the Brandon School Division have shown “exceptional growth” since the pilot project began last fall.
A detailed report on the program was presented to trustees Monday night, summarizing student achievement from September to March.
“This is really making a difference in the lives of these students and it’s going to make a difference, setting them up for success from now through their whole future,” said Teresa Vallotton, research and evaluation specialist with the Brandon School Division.
The full-day, every-day kindergarten initiative was launched as a pilot project for the 2011-12 school year in four elementary schools — Riverheights, Riverview, Ecole New Era and Betty Gibson. The four schools were chosen based on students’ identified learning needs and academic performance.
Board chair Mark Sefton said the report exceeded his already high expectations.
“I was really expecting to see some clear gains, but the gains that are in there … are greater than I expected and that’s good news,” Sefton said.
Children showed positive growth in numeracy, literacy and fine motor skills.
“It really looks like there have been tremendous gains in many of those categories, with a higher proportion of students meeting or exceeding expectations than we would normally expect,” Sefton said.
The report summarized student achievement in the areas of behavioral, academic and social growth. Data was collected from students through their teachers, principals and parents.
Principals from all four schools, along with kindergarten teachers appeared in a video outlining the great success they’ve seen with the initiative thus far. They also attended the board meeting to answer questions from trustees.
Nicole Koroluk teaches full-day kindergarten at Ecole New Era School and was thrilled to share that every student is meeting or exceeding expectations in all areas — a far cry from her experience teaching half-day kindergarten.
“It was absolutely shocking,” she said. “I was hoping and feeling positive that they would be meeting the expectation, but when I saw how many were actually exceeding the expectations, I was floored.”
Koroluk said the full day with the children allows for more time to focus on activities, allow them to play and become part of the school community.
“The play activities are so important because they give the students the chance to have those communications with each other and develop their social skills and develop their language,” she said.
New Era principal Chad Cobbe said he has seen “overwhelming growth” in the students and would like to see more students have the same opportunity.
“Hopefully it does expand,” he said. “The point is to reach everybody in the school system.”
Earlier this year, the Brandon school board reluctantly rejected a request to add 7.5 positions and $350,000 to expand the initiative to other schools in the 2012-13 budget. Trustees said they needed more hard data and plan to lobby the province to get behind the initiative and provide funding.
Sefton said he “fully expects” a recommendation to extend the program in the budget for 2013-14. They will wait for the final report, which will include the June assessments, before presenting it to Education Minister Nancy Allan.
“This is the data that we’ve been looking for that will make that case,” Sefton said. “What we really want to be able to do is to present this data to the minister ... so she can see with her own eyes, just exactly how powerful this intervention has been for kids and hope that she would join with us in partnering to extend the all-day, every-day kindergarten.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 12, 2012