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The value of the governor’s proposal to expand full-day kindergarten

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As Arizona educators and National Board Certified teachers, we were very pleased to learn of Governor Ducey’s plan to expand access to full-day kindergarten to Arizona’s neediest students. While students enter school with wildly different experiences in education and life, national research has demonstrated that providing additional, high quality instructional classroom time during kindergarten significantly enhances academic performance and early childhood literacy.  Today’s classroom teachers are responsible for our students’ social, emotional, and academic success according to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Considering the implications of all that is at stake in the first years of a child’s education, we wholeheartedly support Governor Ducey’s efforts to expand high quality full-day kindergarten to as many students as possible, knowing access to early childhood literacy and its huge and lasting, positive impact on students. Governor Ducey recently shared his thoughts on kindergarten by saying,, “Parents love it. Kids benefit from it. So I say—let’s expand it.” We couldn’t agree more!

The proposal through the eyes of a pre-kindergarten teacher

audraAudra Damron is a NBCT candidate in her 7th year of teaching and the 2014 Rodel Exemplary Teacher of Early Childhood

“Pre-kindergarten classes are moving towards full-day programs in Arizona and across the country, because it is recognized that as expectations rise for all of our learners, even the youngest, we need to account for this and shift our mindsets. Early Childhood Education is no longer a privilege but a necessity to ensure school readiness. Students deserve to be given the time to learn foundational skills, both academic and social-emotional at their own pace in a setting that allows them to practice the skills in a hands on, real life way.  Expanding full-day kindergarten is a ‘no brainer.’”

The proposal through the eyes of a kindergarten teacher

danielle-brown-tac-photoDanielle Brown is a Kindergarten NBCT in her 8th year of teaching.  She is an ASCD Emerging Leader and Hope Street Group Fellow.

“I consider myself lucky to be a full-day kindergarten teacher, lucky to have TIME. Full-day kindergarten allows time for students to build their social emotional repertoire through interactions with peers and adults. In meeting their social-emotional needs, students are in an ideal position to access the academics that are presented. Having the time to implement engaging and developmentally appropriate activities to meet students’ needs is ideal. Full-day kindergarten provides the time to ensure best practices are achieved, by focusing on the whole child. Having a strong and meaningful full-day kindergarten experience provides students with the skills necessary to engage in learning opportunities in first grade and beyond. There are many luxuries in life, full-day kindergarten shouldn’t be one of those.”

The proposal through the eyes of a first grade teacher

Dayna Burke has taught first grade for the past 9 years, is an NBCT candidate and burke-d2014 Teacher of the Year finalist.

“We know that all brains learn differently. Some learn quickly, requiring only a few opportunities to practice, before understanding and applying new information. Others require more practice, sometimes hundreds more repetitions than their peers. The beauty of full-day kindergarten is that it provides the time for a teacher to provide the necessary practice needed to succeed, not only in kindergarten, but in subsequent years. These skills could be academic. However, they can also be opportunity for structured and unstructured play with peers–a chance to learn critical social-emotional and problem solving skills. These are important for all students to develop before embarking on first grade where they are asked to apply the skills they’ve learned in new and more challenging ways.”

The proposal through the eyes of an upper elementary teacher

Beth Maloney is a 5th grade NBCT in her 17th year of teaching and the 2014 Arizona beth-school-pic-2015Teacher of the Year.

“Students need a solid reading foundation before they leave third grade.  By the time students get to upper elementary school, we begin to focus less on learning to read and more on reading to learn.  Full-day kindergarten increases the odds of success later in school because potential literacy issues can be addressed and resolved through early interventions.”

In summary, no matter the perspective, Governor Ducey’s recent proposal to expand access to high quality full day kindergarten for Arizona’s neediest students is a great idea. Research shows that students in full-day kindergarten gain more than 12% in reading and more than 10% in math over children in half-day kindergarten.  Data show that children of parents with higher levels of formal education are more likely to send their children to preschool and those children are at a major advantage in terms of their vocabulary knowledge. We know that a family’s socioeconomic status also plays a role in a child’s likely academic success so giving a leg up to those students who do not have additional resources at home is a great investment for early childhood literacy and Arizona’s future.

On behalf of educators and the education community across Arizona, we applaud Governor Ducey on embracing the importance of expanding access to high-quality full day kindergarten and urge members of the Arizona Legislature to join Governor Ducey in his commitment to advocating for Arizona’s neediest students.
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The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

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