Reinstate Full Day Pre-Kindergarten at ACS

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As a member of the Alexandria Central School District community, I want the Superintendent, Mr. Christopher Clapper, and the Board of Education to know I support a full day pre-kindergarten program. 

As a member of the Alexandria Central School District community, I am not in agreement with an administrative decision to move from a full day pre-kindergarten program to a half day program in the 2018-2019 school year. 

As a member of the Alexandria Central School District community, I am requesting that the Board of Education restore the full day pre-kindergarten program in the 2018-2019 school year; based on the feedback received from parents/tax payers in addition to decades of research which outline the benefits children receive from attending a full day pre-kindergarten program.

The Issue:

  • Alexandria Central School (ACS) commenced a full day pre-kindergarten program in the 2017-2018 school year.  Parents of students attending the program were thrilled with the results and the preparation their children received by attending this full day program. 
  • Parents of children who will be 4 in the 2018-2019 school year were excited their children had an opportunity to prepare for kindergarten through a full day program as well.  Many of these parents had already informed their current daycare providers that their children would not need daycare starting in September as they would be attending this full day program.  These parents and their children attended a full day pre-K screening on Thursday, May 10th. Students and parents learned about the full day program they would be attending in the 2018-2019 school year.
  • Unfortunately, parents of students entering pre-K in the 2018-2019 school year were called by the school secretary on Friday, May 18th, only 8 days after attending pre-k registration, informing them the school was no longer offering a full day program and would cut the program to 2 half day sessions of less than 3 hours a piece.  
  • From what concerned parents and grandparents have been told by school officials the decision to cut the full day pre-k program at ACS was NOT about money.  It was about concerns regarding the program’s effectiveness and the concern that a full day was too much for children. 
  • The 2018-2019 school budget passed after its vote on Tuesday, May 15th. The budget did NOT address cutting the full day pre-K program. Therefore, money was in the budget to continue to operate a full day program.

The Background:

As parents and taxpayers, we entrust the school administration and Board of Education to make decisions in the best interest of our children and students.  Decades of research prove that full day kindergarten readiness programs work.  School administration made the decision to cut the full day program based on the feedback received from some staff who have stated that the program was not successful and it was too much on the kids.  There is no ACS specific data or research to validate this claim.  This is not how parents of current students enrolled in the full day program feel.  These parents were not consulted before a decision to cut the program was made.  A study by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) (Is More Better? The Effects of Full-Day vs. Half-Day Preschool on Early School Achievement, 2006), finds that the benefits of full-day preschool over half-day programs are significant and concludes that "policy makers should strongly consider implementation of full-day preschool." Results show that children attending full-day programs did better on mathematics and literacy tests than children in a 2.5 to 3-hour public preschool program and the achievement gains continued past kindergarten.  While all kids benefit from preschool, poor and disadvantaged kids often make the most gains. "Researchers who study pre-K education often find that children who have had early experiences of economic scarcity and insecurity gain more from these programs than their more advantaged peers."

Any decisions made to change from full day programming to half day programming should be made using solid data and consultation with solid research.  With one year of full day programming not yet completed, school administration has no data to support their claim that a half day program is what is in the best interest of our children/students.  Pre-kindergarten is a kindergarten readiness program.  The full day pre-kindergarten students have yet to attend kindergarten so there is no way to validate whether they were more prepared for kindergarten then their peers who did not attend the full day program.  There will not be any data on the current full day program until the end of the 2018-2019 school year, after these students complete kindergarten.  Therefore, making a decision to cut the program before the success of the program can be evaluated is premature.  Additionally, as a kindergarten readiness program, a full day program is better equipped to prepare children for kindergarten as they are able to experience the full day of school – attending breakfast, specials such as art, music, and gym, lunch, and district wide activities such as author visits or safety training.  Providing a half day program only does not fully prepare our students for kindergarten as students are only in the building for less than 3 hours per day.

As a community, Alexandria Bay has an opportunity to provide better programming to our children than other districts by offering a full day pre-k program.  There was money in the school budget to provide this program and there were teachers on staff to teach our children.  If we are making decisions in the best interest of our children and not to solve short term personnel matters we would not be cutting early education programing for our children.  If we are making decisions in the best interest of our children we would embracing full day pre-k programming and would be working to achieve the highest quality program possible by further developing our curriculum to ensure the program was of highest value to our children. 

As found in other states, “Extended day pre-kindergarten programs of good quality have dramatic and lasting effects on children’s learning across a broad range of knowledge and skills. As many families need full-day programs for their 4-year-olds to accommodate parents’ work schedules, the evidence that full-day preschool education can meet child care needs and benefit children’s learning should be of high interest to parents and policymakers. Indeed, some children, particularly those in low-income working families, will miss out on high quality preschool education altogether if only a half-day public program is available (reference: Raise Your Hands Texas, Is More Better NIEER).”

 



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