As part of its ongoing focus on kindergarten, the Education Commission of the States is researching the variety of policies and laws throughout the country related to this first year of formal schooling.
For example, nine states do not require districts to offer even half-day kindergarten. Six provide districts with financial incentives to offer full-day kindergarten, and four states require kindergarten teachers to be certified in early-childhood education or development.
States also vary on where they set the entrance age for kindergarten students, according to Kristie Kauerz, the program director for early learning at the Denver-based ECS.
She spoke last month at the annual conference of the Washington-based National Association for the Education of Young Children.
"Kindergarten is stuck in the middle of two worlds," Ms. Kauerz told an audience gathered in Chicago. "It doesn't fit fully in early childhood, and it doesn't fit fully in K-12."
But, she added, kindergarten has become critical as the "bridge year" between home or preschool and formal education.
And Ms. Kauerz said that kindergarten is getting more attention now that research shows the achievement gap between poor and nonpoor children develops even before youngsters enter school.
In the future, the ECS plans to examine how states define and pay for full-day and part-day programs, and it will look at standards of quality for kindergarten.
More information on states' kindergarten regulations is available online.
Child-care providers who care for children in their homes often miss out on the same training opportunities that are available to teachers in center-based early-childhood programs.
But Reading Is Fundamental, a family-literacy organization based in Washington, has produced a series of videos designed specifically to help those providers strengthen children's early-literacy skills.
Financed by the U.S. Department of Education, the new "Gateways to Literacy" series includes topics such as reading aloud to children, and fostering a "print rich" environment.
For more information, call (800) 590-0041 or send an e-mail to [email protected].
Vol. 23, Issue 15, Page 6Published in Print: December 10, 2003, as Early Years