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CUMBERLAND â€” A study group assembled to perform an in-depth review of the feasibility of all-day kindergarten in Cumberland public schools is expected to report its findings by the end of the month.
The district has been talking about instituting full-day kindergarten since the fall and the arrival at that time of new School Superintendent Philip Thornton, a supporter of full-day kindergarten. Thornton made a formal public presentation on the merits of an all-day program at the School Committee's meeting Dec. 8.
Full-day kindergarten is defined as a kindergarten program that operates for at least six hours per day.
The study group is investigating a plan that would have kindergartners attend a full day at each of the district's five neighborhood schools while at the same time adjusting some district lines, particularly in Cumberland Hill where kindergartners are currently bused to the Community School.
Currently, there are 60 half-day kindergarten students at the Ashton School; 36 at the B.F.Norton School; 115 at the Community School; and 42 at the Garvin Memorial School.
The School Committee will have the final say on whether or not an all-day program is instituted based on a recommendation by Thornton.
According to proponents, children benefit academically from participating in full-day kindergarten, saying children in full-day kindergarten are more likely to be ready for first grade than children in half-day kindergarten programs, regardless of family income, parental education and school characteristics.
On average, the learning gains that students make in full-day kindergarten programs translate to a month of additional schooling over the course of a school year. Full-day kindergarten programs can be especially beneficial to poor and minority children and can contribute significantly to closing academic achievement gaps.
With an estimated 74 percent of four-year-olds in the U.S. enrolled in some type of preschool program, kindergarten no longer serves as the entry-point to formal, full-day school for most young children.
Many parents favor full-day kindergarten as it provides continuity for children who are already accustomed to full-day preschool experiences and it reduces the number of transitions and disruptions their child experiences each day. Also, teachers in full-day kindergarten programs have more time to provide meaningful learning opportunities that encourage cognitive, physical and social-emotional development.
Nationally, according to the latest data from Rhode Island Kids Count, a statewide childrenâ€™s policy organization, enrollment in full-day kindergarten has been increasing steadily over the past 25 years. In 1979, 25 percent of kindergartners were in full-day programs. In 2008, 72 percent of the nationâ€™s public and private school kindergarteners were enrolled in full-day programs.
Across the U.S., nine states require all school districts to offer full-day kindergarten and two states require children to attend full-day kindergarten before entering first grade.
In Rhode Island in the 2010-2011 school year, 60 percent of the children who attended public kindergarten were in a full-day program, with 88 percent of students in the core cities and 41 percent of students in the remainder of the state attending full-day kindergarten.