The case for all-day, every-day kindergarten for Manitoba schoolchildren has received a significant boost from the Brandon School Division’s ongoing pilot program.
Earlier this week, BSD research evaluation specialist Teresa Vallotton presented a detailed report on the program to trustees summarizing student achievement from September to March. The results, she said, have been startling.
“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,” Vallotton said.
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, École New Era and Betty Gibson — based on students’ identified learning needs and academic performance.
Data, which was collected from students through their teachers, principals and parents, showed that a full day of kindergarten allows for more time to focus on activities, which helps them to play and become part of the school community.
Full-day, every-day kindergarten teacher Nicole Koroluk said every student in the program at École New Era was meeting or exceeding expectations, which she says is a far cry from her experience teaching half-day classes. School principal Chad Cobbe echoed Koroluk, saying he had seen “overwhelming growth” in the students and would like to see more students have the same opportunity.
“Hopefully it does expand,” Cobbe said. “The point is to reach everybody in the school system.”
Indeed, the school division has high hopes that the results of their pilot project will convince the provincial government to start funding all-day, every-day kindergarten across the province — not just in Brandon. But the problem of cost has not changed. In fact, given the recent provincial budget and the continued deficit spending by the NDP, the situation has actually worsened.
And during budget deliberations earlier this year, trustees had reluctantly rejected the expansion of an ongoing pilot project due to funding issues, although the program will continue as is for another year. While several community members had encouraged the board to reconsider putting the item — 7.5 positions for full-day, every-day kindergarten expansion at a cost of $349,000 — back in the budget, division trustees had said they needed more hard data to convince the province to get behind the initiative.
Now with that hard data in hand, there’s an excellent case to be made for not only continuing the pilot program in the 2013-14 year, but looking for provincial support.
We encourage provincial Education Minister Nancy Allan to take a good look at the division’s findings. At the same time, we would once again ask the minister to reconsider a provincial plan to cap class sizes at 20 kids for kindergarten to Grade 3. This cap places a large financial burden on schools in Brandon that have no space left, thanks to a recent immigration surge in this city.
Nevertheless, the province announced yesterday that it would be moving forward with the cap, with full implementation by September 2017. A provincial press release stated that while 10 per cent of classrooms per division will be allowed the flexibility to go beyond the cap of 20 students, no classes will be permitted to have more than 23 students in a kindergarten to Grade 3 classroom.
But the Brandon School Division’s pilot program proves that students already react favourably to a more in-depth and focused learning environment from an early age, at current class sizes. Smaller classes, while perhaps desirable, may be unnecessary.
Before the government starts forcing school divisions to embark on massive and expensive building projects to meet the 20-student classroom cap, we would ask the minister to consider the Brandon project as a better alternative.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 15, 2012