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Reporting on Full-Day Kindergarten

With the 2009-2010 school year being the first year of full-day kindergarten in the Great Neck School District, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Kelly Newman presented a review of the new program at the Nov. 15 Board of Education meeting. Prior to this, since 1971 the school district had offered a Kindergarten program including full days and part-days; this program had included small group sessions on specific days each week.

Now, as the full-day program goes into the second year, Ms. Newman reported  feedback is positive from kindergarten and first grade teachers, administrators and parents. “It works,” Ms. Newman said. Teachers report that most of the children adjusted well to the full-day everyday, and also noted the benefit of the continuation of small groups.

Teachers noted that following a partial-day kindergarten day, first grade students were often tired in the afternoon. Now, following a year of full-day kindergarten, teachers found less students tired in the afternoon by first grade. Following a year of full-day kindergarten, first grade teachers also found their students more prepared for learning. As well, these students’ parents have a better understanding of the structure of a full-day program.

Several other observations were reported concerning full-day Kindergarten, including a smooth day, more flexibility, and teachers better able to meet individual needs. But Ms. Newman did note that there are also some concerns such as the challenges concerning young students with fine motor challenges, those with attention deficits, and those students who are among the “highest achievers.”

The continuation of small group instruction is handled differently in each school, with each school creating its own model. Each school believes that its model is working, but some do say that a push-in program (as opposed to a pull-out program) can also be challenging.

The children, too, were “interviewed,” and Ms. Newman said that most of the first grade students who experienced a full-day kindergarten program were positive about their school year and full day.

For the future of the full-day kindergarten program, Ms. Newman said that they will “explore ways” seeking a better balance between the academic curriculum and the social/emotional curriculum.

Ms. Newman also said that there would be professional development offerings for work on fine motor skills, attention deficits and organizational skills. There will also be professional development offerings to help staff meet the individual needs of students. She reported that there will be a focus on increased communication with parents regarding the small group instruction component.

Priorities for the future include maintaining the small group instruction program and maintaining low class size (under 20 students per class). Board of Education President Barbara Berkowitz emphasized the school board’s commitment to small class size and board trustee Lawrence Gross said this year’s average kindergarten class has 16.6 students.

At the end it was noted that full-day kindergarten is cost-saving as less buses are needed; all students in an elementary school require the same buses at the same time.