A new assembly bill could require California public schools to implement full-day kindergarten programs by the year 2021.
The bill, drafted by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), would require that kindergarten programs abide by state-wide curriculum, which include all subjects, including visual/performing arts and physical education.
Chaparral Elementary School in Claremont used to have a half-day kindergarten program, but at the insistence of kindergarten teachers, the school transitioned into a more academic full-day program by 2008-2009.
Annette Reed, a former kindergarten teacher and current second grade teacher at Chaparral, contributed to that effort.
“When the kids left us at 11:45 a.m., most of them would just go to daycare,” Reed said. “We felt like we could offer them more academics, a more structured environment, and add some things to our curriculum, like science, social studies, and art. We just decided it would be better for the kids if they were schooled just a longer day instead of being at home or at daycare.”
Sycamore Elementary School, also in Claremont, never had a full-day kindergarten.
This school is unique in that kindergarten students, who stay for only a half-day program, spend class time with first-grade students, who stay for the whole day.
“Our particular school is rather developmental in nature,” Sycamore Elementary School Principal Amy Stanger said. “We kind of have this constructivist philosophy and so we really believe that children should play and explore, so we’ve chosen that path for kindergarten as being kind of an entry point into school.”
Constructivism entails that the program abides by an educational philosophy that claims students derive knowledge and meaning from their direct experiences – a sharp contrast to lecture-style instruction, Stanger said.
Denise Kennedy, associate professor of education at the University of La Verne and a specialist in early childhood development program, said there are a few logistical issues within the Assembly bill, such as the issue of increased demand for class space.
However, she acknowledges the benefits of the bill.
“If we’re looking at low-income families, this would probably be a benefit just because of the cost of child care,” Kennedy said. “A lot of families cannot afford childcare and if their child is in school longer, then that affords them more time to enter the workforce.”
Lisa Looney, associate professor of education, said that with this bill comes with an increased emphasis on kindergarteners’ academic progress, when there should also be emphasis on the children’s development.
“Implementing a bill that requires full-day kindergarten, the hope is that it’s going to bring children along faster. That’s not necessarily the case,” Looney said. “You can implement a full day kindergarten, but if that full day kindergarten isn’t developmentally appropriate, if it’s not taking into account the developmental needs of the children, you’re not going to exit with a successful result, necessarily.
“My concern with a bill like this is more about the fact that it’s not going to be a quick fix if that’s what the issue is, right? It’s not about putting kids in classrooms longer. It’s about being effective in the time that they are there,” Looney said.
Aryn Plax can be reached at email@example.com.