Two studies of the first two years of full-day kindergarten show it’s helping pupils, especially those most in need, but critics still question the steep $1.5-billion price tag.
LFPress.com – news/local/education
December 4, 2013. By Kelly Pedro
Researchers studying the rollout of full day kindergarten have looked at the evidence and released their verdict: Though there were growing pains in the first two years of the program, overall, the kids who needed it most are benefitting from the program.
“Whenever you roll something like this out, with all the changes that are embedded in it, you’ve got to expect growing pains,” said Ray Peters, one of the study’s leading researchers from Queen’s University.
Play-based curriculum is new for kindergarten teachers — as is sharing their classrooms with early childhood educators.
“Those are the kinds of things that take time to work out. They just don’t happen overnight,” Peters said.
But the Progressive Conservative education critic said the gains aren’t substantial enough and the province can’t afford the steep price tag for the program.
“There’s great concern when we’re spending $1.5 billion on a full-day kindergarten program when the results are not showing vast improvement for kids,” Rob Leone said.
Experts who study early childhood learning and some economists say the province can’t afford not to have full-day kindergarten.
“If you look at the work done on the economic return on this investment and you look at the preliminary results of this research, we can’t afford not to do this,” said Charles Pascal, an early learning adviser who wrote a report for the province calling for full-day kindergarten.
The number of “vulnerable” kids as a result of the program is going down, he said.
Before full-day kindegarten was launched in 2010, 27% of children going into Grade 1 were vulnerable — they scored in the bottom 10th percentile on an Early Developmental Instrument (EDI) that measured everything from general knowledge to physical health and wellbeing to social competence.
That’s significant because once those children fall behind, they never catch up and are more likely to fall victim to poverty and youth violence, costing society more down the road, Pascal said.
Research shows that every 1% drop in that rate increases Canada’s Gross Domestic Product by 1%, he said.
“We’re talking about billions of dollars worth of savings,” Pascal said.
What’s more, he added, parents like full day learning and 92% of all eligible parents have their children in the program.
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FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN ROLLOUT
2010: 35,000 pupils, or 15% of kindergartners
2011: 50,000, or 20%
2012: 122,000 or 49%
2013: 184,000 or 75%
2014: 265,000 or 100
- Pupils in high-needs schools — schools with low EQAO scores — benefitted the most from the program, while pupils with special education needs didn’t do as well, mostly because they didn’t have the extra support they needed
- Pupils who had taken part in full-day kindergarten entered Grade 1 ready to learn
- The number of vulnerable kids — those who scored in the bottom 10th percentile of the EDI rankings – was reduced.
- A concept long used in private schools, such as Montessori, it harnesses a child’s natural curiosity to teach them about the world.
- Play is child-directed, but structured to encourage kids to problem solve, while educators watch and ask questions about their play. For example, children may learn about math by playing with objects in water and are encouraged to make their own boats to determine what is likely to float or sink.
FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN
- Puts four- and five-year-olds in classrooms with teachers and early childhood educators.
- Program being rolled out over five years.
- By September 2014, 265,000 children will be enrolled.
- Some politicians and economist Don Drummond decry the program’s $1.5-billion price tag.
- Researchers say the province can’t afford not to have the program.
ABOUT THE STUDIES
- Researchers at Queen’s and McMaster universities studied the first two years of the program’s roll out in separate studies