At Monday's board meeting, the district presented what it felt would be the costs for implementation of full-day kindergarten for the 2018-2019 school year. To me, this stands out as one of those no-brainers. Education is a field full of seemingly new trends and ideas that come up every year. Some work out, while others, not so much. However, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more impactful driver of student achievement than full-day kindergarten in terms of getting young children to demonstrate the academic growth needed to succeed in school. The data (Walston and West, 2004) and research (Ackerman et al., 2005) are there. The academic gains of such a program are not up for debate.
The process of funding such a program is, however. After listening to two of the presentations, I feel that the district has done more than its due diligence in finding the most cost-effective way to implement such a program. The Board has also done its due diligence in asking some challenging questions, all of which I felt were clearly answered.
There are two winners here. The first is the incoming Class of 2031. Should the current board approve the plan, these incoming kindergartners will be set up for success in a way that no previous class has had before in East Penn. This is awesome and my only disappointment is that my own children didn't have the opportunity.
The second winner is the property owners of East Penn. Without its implementation, young families won't have a hard choice to make when presented with two options if they want FDK -- a) enroll with parochial/private tuition within the borders of EPSD or b) enroll with our neighbors to the north. If the Board chooses to approve FDK, EPSD will immediately become an even better place to raise a family than it already is. When the demand to live here goes up, our property values go up as well.
Additionally, recent research has demonstrated that funds invested in quality early education programs produce powerful returns. Robert Lynch (2005) showed that quality early education can bring returns of at least 3-1 on investment!
In the end, there's a positive for every member of our community, whether we have young ones at home or not. If we want to continue to be seen as a community who cares for our schools and our children, this is a no-brainer. Given current trends in education, there's too much at risk to let this opportunity pass us by.
What the research says about full day kindergarten
- Walston, Jill and West, Jerry. Full-Day and Half-Day Kindergarten in the United States: Findings from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2004. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2004/web/2004078.asp.
- Ackerman, Debora J., Barnett, W. Steven, and Robin, Kenneth B. Making the Most of Kindergarten: Present Trends and Future Issues in the Provision of Full-day Programs. National Institute for Early Education Research, March, 2005. http://nieer.org/docs/?DocID=118.
- Heckman, James J. and Masterov, Dimitriy V. The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children. Working Paper 5, Invest in Kids Working Group, Committee for Economic Development, October 2004. http://jenni.uchicago.edu/Invest/.
- Lynch, Robert. Exceptional Returns: Economic, Fiscal and Social Benefits of Investment in Early Childhood Education. Economic Policy Institute, 2005. http://www.epi.org/files/2013/Exceptional_Returns.pdf