Early Years

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More Kindergarten?: The Santa Ana Unified School District in California is floating the idea of establishing a two-year kindergarten program that proponents hope would better serve a highly needy student population.

Superintendent Al Mijares is fine-tuning a proposal for two years of kindergarten that he plans to present to the school board later this month.

"It wouldn't fit for everybody," Mr. Mijares said. "If a student is ready after kindergarten, and all the green lights are there, then fine, let them go on [to 1st grade]."

But for many kindergartners in his district, one year is simply "not enough time," he said.

About 76 percent of the students in the 60,000-student district enter school speaking a language other than English; 85 percent are living in poverty; and more than 70 percent of the parents in the district do not have high school diplomas.

What's more, school officials say most of the approximately 5,000 kindergartners in the district enter school with no preschool experience.

Mr. Mijares said children who would go through a second year of kindergarten would receive more rigorous language instruction than they did in their first year.

But the idea has drawn some skepticism.

"Why can't some of that extra help be given in 1st grade?" said Marilou Hyson, the associate executive director for professional development at the Washington-based National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Preschool Research: The U.S. Department of Education's office of educational research and improvement is accepting applications for roughly $4 million in grants that would be awarded to school districts, universities, for- profit and nonprofit agencies, and other institutions that want to participate in a new research initiative in early-childhood education.

Under the Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research Program, grantees would work with separate contractors to carry out studies of various preschool education models. The goal is to determine—through random, clinical trials—whether and how certain curricula support school readiness. The project could last up to four years.

OERI officials estimate there will be 10 grant recipients. The deadline for applications is March 15, and the awards are scheduled to be announced in May. The average award for the first year would be about $350,000.

—Linda Jacobson [email protected]

Vol. 21, Issue 18, Page 10

Published in Print: January 16, 2002, as Early Years

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