Report: Full-day kindergarten improves reading

Report by state group comes as funding is threatened


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At a time proposed state funding cuts have put some full-day kindergarten programs in jeopardy, a new report says that the program improves reading skills.

The report by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children -- a child advocacy group -- compares children who were in full-day kindergarten with those in part-time kindergarten statewide. Of the state's 500 school districts, 349 have full-day kindergarten, according to the partnership.

Many of those programs rely on state accountability block grants to pay for all or part of the full-day kindergarten programs, but Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed eliminating such grants.

"Eliminating this flexible funding source will force school districts to make difficult decisions which could hamper student outcomes," said Joan Benso, president and CEO of the partnerships group.

She urged legislators to restore the accountability block grants or make a dedicated funding stream for full-day kindergarten.

In Allegheny County, the following districts used such funds to pay for all or part of their full-day kindergarten programs: Avonworth, Baldwin-Whitehall, Brentwood, Carlynton, Chartiers Valley, Clairton, Deer Lakes, Duquesne, East Allegheny, Elizabeth Forward, Fox Chapel Area, Highlands, McKeesport Area, Montour, North Hills, Northgate, Penn Hills, Plum, Quaker Valley, Riverview, South Allegheny, South Park, Steel Valley, Sto-Rox, Wilkinsburg and Woodland Hills, according to the organization.

The organization's study focused on the percentage of students who were not proficient -- that is, scored basic or below basic on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests.

It compared the third-grade scores of the first groups of full-day kindergarten students after block grants became available to third-graders from previous years when such money wasn't available.

Its figures showed that students in both part-time and full-time kindergarten improved, but the full-day kindergarten students generally improved more.

For those who were in kindergarten in 2005 and third-grade in 2008, the percentage not proficient in reading in third grade dropped by 9.1 percent in schools with full-day kindergarten and 6 percent in schools that had part-time kindergarten when compared with third-graders in 2005. Math scores were about the same.

Differences also were noted in the next two classes of kindergartners when they reached third grade.

The percentage of students scoring below proficient dropped by 9.4 percent for those who were in full-day kindergarten in 2006 and third grade in 2009 compared to third-graders in 2006. The drop was 6.5 percent for third-graders who had been in a part-time kindergarten in 2006.

Part-time kindergartners had a small edge in math, with a drop of 1.1 percent, compared to 0.1 percent of the full-day kindergarten students.

For the kindergarten class of 2007, the drop in nonproficient students was similar in both groups in reading, around 1 percent.

That class had the biggest improvement in math, a drop of 6.1 percent in students not proficient in full-day kindergarten and 3.3 percent for those in part-time kindergarten.

• To read the report, visit www.papartnerships.org.


Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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