All day kindergarten bill moves forward

Thursday, March 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill this week to fund all day kindergarten programs statewide.

A little more than a third of state elementaries offer all day kindergarten this year, including 25 Tulsa Public Schools. KOTV's education reporter Glenda Silvey looks at why most educators say five year-olds need a full school day.

Kendall Whittier teacher Janet McKenzie can't imagine trying to teach kindergarten in half a day only. She's sees several advantages to a full day for five year-olds, mainly longer blocks of learning time. "We can schedule things in a sequence or we can combine areas of learning into a block of time, which is shown by research to work better for children." McKenzie says it makes a critical difference for the high number of children who enter school unprepared, not knowing colors, numbers and letters.

She rejects the notion that kindergartners are too young to spend all day in class. "They're in a developmentally appropriate setting so they don't get tired. They're up, moving - they're doing the things they're supposed to be doing - they're not sitting at a desk all day. They're doing the things that children do."

Sand Springs Schools recent bond issue increased funding for early childhood programs, including all day kindergarten. Lloyd Snow, Sand Springs Superintendent says, "I think this is something parents want and need and we as an education family and community knows will work." Snow says research shows that money spent on early childhood education delivers a big payoff. "When you compare it to some of the other things we have to wrestle with as a culture, corrections stuff and all the juvenile issues."

Some question whether day care needs drive the national trend toward full day kindergarten. Supporters say while it may fill that need, parents realize a far more important purpose. "They are absolutely amazed at the things the children are doing and how capable they are and how excited they are about learning, and it gets them excited too."

Educators say the results of all day kindergarten would excite most anyone who sees its benefits to children, and ultimately society. Most area districts don't offer full day kindergarten due to cost and space issues, but say they hope to eventually. Tulsa Public Schools with all day programs are Title One schools that qualify for federal funding.