But this is a foot-in-the-door tactic. Once the program is firmly entrenched, some future legislator will introduce a bill to strike that language from the law. By that time, most parents will have been strong-armed or forced by convenience factors to have their Kindergarteners attend full-time.
SB49 also says that schools “will ensure a majority of students enrolled in an extended-day kindergarten class under this part are students who have the greatest need for additional instruction, as determined by the kindergarten readiness assessment.” Right now most schools don’t know squat about their incoming Kindergarteners until they are already in school. Assessment occurs during the first month or so. Under SB49, a relatively extensive assessment would need to occur for each potential Kindergartener sometime prior to creating class schedules. That could prove problematic.
We know from other locations throughout the country that have voluntary all-day K that parental requests for their child to be enrolled rarely involve the child’s academic needs. Most parents that request for their kids to attend all-day K do so mostly for child care reasons. SB49 would have schools turn some of these people down if their kids are not disadvantaged and the program has failed to enroll sufficient disadvantaged students. I’d hate to have that job, because we also know from districts with voluntary all-day K that the kids that would benefit most are the ones that are most difficult to enroll.
But that’s not my major beef with this bill. At Utah Politicopia, I wrote something like the following. (I fixed some spelling and grammar issues in this post.)
All-day Kindergarten is strongly promoted by the education industrial complex for a variety of purposes. Among those purposes are to expand power, gain more funding, expand control over younger children, and provide child care services. This is only a step along the way to state-sponsored required preschool where government has more control of children than parents.
Much research has been done on all-day kindergarten, but it is deucedly difficult to find research that has been done by an objective source that is not deeply involved in the current education industrial complex. Most studies rely on very short-term results. However, some information can be gleaned from these studies. A summary of research can be found here.
Most research findings deliberately skew results by citing measurement against children with no Kindergarten and obliquely citing measurement against children with half-day Kindergarten. And most research focuses only on one-year gains. Weiss found in a 2002 study of 17,600 Philadelphia schoolchildren that almost all gains disappeared entirely by fourth grade (with the exception of science and attendance).
Almost all studies agree that children from low-income families benefit most from all-day Kindergarten. What is not mentioned much is that children outside of this demographic do not benefit much (if at all), and that a small percentage of these are actually harmed. One of the points most touted is that children that attended all-day K had a 70% greater chance than their half-day attending peers of reaching third grade on time. What is little mentioned, however, is that this number applies to an incredibly small number of students. Since the population to which this measure applies is so small, other unmeasured and uncontrolled factors likely contributed to skewing the numbers.
Mandating all-day Kindergarten for all students applies a mass salve to all children without any long-term benefit. It is yet another solution that implies that government knows better than parents how to manage the development of young children. While some children could benefit from all-day K, it is folly to mandate it for all students.
Substantially expanding the size and power of the education industrial complex over the past four decades has had little salutary effect on student outcomes. In fact, the result has been just the opposite by many measures. Enacting policies that expand the size and power of this establishment even more is not the road to success. Just doing more of what schools already do is obviously not the right answer.
I’m sure this will earn some hate-mail from big government types and educators. But let’s be honest with ourselves and realize that more government-run education is not necessarily the path to a good and productive life.