Written by Linda Williams, Title I Reading and Assessment Coordinator
The first day of school is always an exciting time for students, parents, and teachers, but this upcoming school year is particularly significant for Portage Township Schools Kindergarten students, as full day kindergarten will be implemented.
On March 20, 2012, Governor Mitch Daniels signed House Enrolled Act 1376, which nearly doubled the funding amount per student available for school corporations providing full day kindergarten. This legislation allowed PTS to realize the long standing goal of providing a full day experience to ALL of their kindergarten students.
In recent years, students attending Title I schools were selected to attend an extended day kindergarten program based on academic need. This opportunity was available for only 34 students in each Title I building. During the 2011-2012 school year, approximately 272 students, or 51 percent of PTS kindergarten students in all eight elementary buildings participated in this extended learning opportunity funded through Title I. While this program certainly benefited those students, school officials desired to expand the program to include all kindergartners, but were unable to do so without an increase in state funding. This year, there are 551 children currently registered for full day kindergarten.
Once the decision was made at the local level to provide full day kindergarten, Portage Township Schools began planning for this significant change. Many factors needed to be addressed, such as space limitations, changes to busing routines, and the impact on food services, to name a few. Leaders of all departments worked cooperatively to achieve this common goal. Most importantly, teachers began planning for the additional instructional time.
There are many benefits of a full day kindergarten. The additional time will allow teachers to more thoroughly address the Common Core State Standards, implemented in kindergarten during the 2011-2012 school year. More advanced students will have the opportunity to receive enrichment: completing activities and projects that address the standards more in depth, while at-risk students will have more time for remediation targeting their specific learning needs.
The additional time will also provide teachers with more opportunities to read to their students, which is critically important for the development of early literacy skills. Teachers are also excited about the increased opportunities for “circle time” activities and helping their students develop the Five Critical Values: Be Honest, Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Fair, and Be Compassionate.
For working families, full day kindergarten eases some of the scheduling challenges created by a half day kindergarten program. While this may not eliminate the need for before or after school care, it could certainly result in fewer transitions in the daily schedule for their children.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, kindergarten students will take the first steps in starting their school careers. During these two dates, parents will be bringing their child in to their school for the Kindergarten Assessment. Not only does this provide an opportunity for students (and their parents) to become familiar with the building where they will be spending their next school year, but they will get to meet some of the people that will be working with them as they begin their educational career.
During this assessment time, teachers will lead them in game-like activities that will give them an idea of what skills the child has already obtained in areas such as literacy and math. Having this valuable information prior to the start of the school year is helpful in several ways, allowing teachers the ability to more accurately direct their instruction beginning on day one.
As the first day of school, Aug. 22, approaches, rest assured that the entire PTS team will continue working to make that day, and every day, a success for our students.