Opinion
Early Childhood Opinion

The Half-Day Kindergarten-Common Core Mismatch

By Laura A. Bornfreund — December 04, 2012 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

This fall, millions of 5-year-olds donned backpacks full of school supplies for the first time as they headed off to kindergarten. Depending on where they live, however, these children are having widely divergent experiences, with some attending full-day kindergarten and others offered only half-day classes. And yet the new national English/language arts and math standards they are expected to meet are exactly the same.

Under the Common Core State Standards, kindergartners will be challenged by new and higher expectations. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have signed up for the common core (one of those states, Minnesota, adopted only the ELA standards). Will teachers be able to help their kindergarten pupils reach the common goals when those children are only attending for half a school day? Or might the instruction needed to meet the standards be pushed to before- or after-school programs or prekindergarten programs, as a recent report from the National Association for the Education of Young Children cautioned?

Children enrolled in half-day kindergarten receive less instructional time, likely experience a narrowed curriculum, have less time for experimentation and exploration, and enjoy fewer opportunities for play. Many states and school districts already require a 90-minute uninterrupted reading block in elementary schools. It’s likely that others may choose to adopt the 90-minute reading policy because of the demands of the common core. Focusing on early reading and language development is important, but in half-day kindergarten—which rarely lasts longer than three hours a day—that reading block would leave only about 90 minutes each day for deep learning in mathematics, science, social studies, and the arts, not to mention time for physical activity and socializing, which are so important to kindergartners’ development.

In half-day programs, will state standards for other subjects play second fiddle to the common core?"

How many American children are in half-day kindergarten? It’s nearly impossible to know because states are not required to keep track, and decisions about kindergarten have been left to local districts in most places. When school districts do choose to provide a full day of kindergarten, it is vulnerable to funding cuts because in most states it is not required by law.

According to an analysis by the Children’s Defense Fund, only 10 states and the District of Columbia require that districts provide full-day kindergarten for all children. Some states require only a half-day. Six states have no kindergarten requirement at all, although most districts still offer at least half-day kindergarten. Thirteen states allow districts to charge parents for part of a full day of kindergarten.

Even before the arrival of the common core, many experts have advocated full-day kindergarten, arguing that children who attend it are more prepared for later learning in school, post higher academic achievement in later grades, and display more advanced social, emotional, and behavioral development, which also helps them learn in later grades.

BRIC ARCHIVE

A half-day allows less time for teachers to include inquiry-led instruction, child-centered play, exploration and hands-on activities—all important learning opportunities. Additionally, kindergartners in half-day programs have less time to be with teachers who know how to help them develop and practice social-emotional skills, such as understanding feelings, managing emotions, regulating behavior, and developing empathy. While the common core only directs what should be taught in reading and math and not how it should be taught, teachers in half-day programs may feel the need to resort to more direct instruction rather than employ strategies that match how young children best learn.

In Pennsylvania, for example, according to the state’s science standards, kindergartners are supposed to begin learning about similarities and differences between living things. One example of an activity for this standard is to observe the growth of a living thing—a frog, perhaps—and document it through drawings and writings. In half-day programs, will state standards for other subjects play second fiddle to the common core? Will kids miss out on lessons such as this for additional instruction in reading and math? Teachers can and should select informational texts on science-related topics to use during reading lessons. This is actually a requirement of the common-core reading standards. But reading about a frog’s life cycle is very different from actively observing, discussing, and explaining it. Children need both. Teachers may find it challenging to fit both into a three-hour day.

A teacher from the South Huntington district in New York illustrated the problem in a letter to the school board when it was considering cutting full-day kindergarten despite the common core: “So there will be no time for calendar, morning message (I can’t even begin to tell you how many skills are developed through this activity), playing, singing, character education, socializing, fine motor skills, art, painting, cutting, handwriting, learning how to work as a group, telling stories, sharing their favorite things, listening to more than one story a day, technology, fitness breaks, using their imaginations, making new friends at recess, exploring their kindergarten classroom through activities like workstations, etc.”

BRIC ARCHIVE

Some districts are making or discussing making the shift from half-day to full-day kindergarten because of the new standards. School districts across Connecticut provide examples. In an article in the Suffield Patch, an online publication, the Suffield, Conn., superintendent of schools, Karen Baldwin, said there isn’t enough time in a half-day to implement the common core. And according to an article in the Hartford Courant, the superintendent of the Wethersfield, Conn., public schools, Thomas Y. McDowell, said of the common core: “The bottom line is we cannot deliver our present-day kindergarten curriculum in a half-day model.” In another article from Connecticut, Bethel Associate Superintendent Janice Jordan said a full day of kindergarten allows for the time needed to support the new standards and to have appropriate time for play.

I’m happy to see that change is afoot in some districts. But states must act as well to keep full-day kindergarten off the chopping block in districts when budgets are slim. The common-core standards provide a clear, consistent, and challenging framework for what children should know and be able to do in math and reading. To help children reach the high expectations and have a well-rounded kindergarten experience, states should fund a full day of kindergarten and require school districts to provide it.

A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 2012 edition of Education Week as The Half-Day Kindergarten/Common-Core Mismatch


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Early Childhood What the Research Says Starting School After the Pandemic: Youngest Students Will Need Foundational Skills
The earliest grades saw the biggest enrollment drops in 2020-21. Experts say these students will need significant help come fall.
4 min read
Image shows preschool boy wearing a protective face mask with a marker in hand.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Early Childhood Opinion Waterford Upstart on Providing Remote Learning to 90,000 Pre-K Kids
Rick Hess speaks with Dr. LaTasha Hadley of Waterford Upstart about its use of adaptive software to close gaps in kindergarten readiness.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Early Childhood Opinion How Two Child-Care Centers Put Competition Aside and Created a Partnership During COVID-19
Due to COVID-19, two early-childhood centers put their competition aside to work together to support families during the pandemic.
Charles Dinofrio
7 min read
Early Childhood New Players Fill Child-Care Gap as Schools Go Remote
As school districts move to remote instruction for the fall, day-care providers, dance studios, and after-school programs step in to fill school-day child-care gaps.
7 min read
A student works on schoolwork earlier this month at the Wharton Dobson Club in Wharton, Texas, part of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston. For a small fee, the organization is offering a full-day program that provides students a safe place to complete their remote learning classwork and socialize with friends.
A student works on schoolwork earlier this month at the Wharton Dobson Club in Wharton, Texas, part of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston. For a small fee, the organization is offering a full-day program that provides students a safe place to complete their remote learning classwork and socialize with friends.
Courtesy of Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston