by Sue Austreng
When school bells ring in the new school year there will be more counting, more reading, more playing and more learning for more of District 11’s five- and six-year old students.
Thanks to a unanimous vote taken at the Feb. 13 Anoka-Hennepin School Board meeting, Franklin, Crooked Lake and Eisenhower elementary schools have been added to the expanded free all-day, every-day (ADED) kindergarten program in the district.
Last month, school board members voted to expand ADED kindergarten so that it would be available at 11 District 11 elementary schools: Adams, Dayton, Evergreen Park, Hamilton, Hoover, Lincoln, Mississippi, Monroe, Rum River, Wilson and University Avenue
With the Feb. 13 vote to include Franklin, Crooked Lake and Eisenhower, 14 of District 11’s 24 elementary schools offer free ADED kindergarten.
Dr. Mary Wolverton, associate superintendent of elementary schools, explained the criteria by which schools are selected to offer free ADED.
Schools with 40 percent poverty or greater (Title Schoolwide schools) are considered first. Those schools must have the building capacity for expansion of the program. They also must have special education centerbase programming. Finally, marketability of the program is considered.
“As we considered two of the high poverty schools not included on the original proposal, Franklin and Eisenhower were added for board consideration,” Wolverton said in the proposal.
By making slight building adjustments to the Eisenhower building, that school was then able to be considered for free ADED kindergarten.
The Franklin Elementary School building is at capacity, Wolverton said.
However, by transporting an attendance area portion of students from Franklin to Crooked Lake, all remaining Franklin kindergarten students could be offered free ADED kindergarten.
With that relocation accomplished, ADED could also be offered at Crooked Lake.
“This is one of those changes we wish we could do for all schools. Our goal is to expand all-day, every-day kindergarten and we’re starting to do that,” said School Board Chairman Tom Heidemann.
Also, with the expansion of ADED kindergarten, the board’s Feb. 13 vote expanded and enhanced the current kindergarten readiness program to include five additional elementary schools: Evergreen, Hoover, Dayton, Wilson, and Crooked Lake elementary schools.
Riverview, Mississippi and University Avenue elementary schools already offer the kindergarten readiness program.
Adding the five additional schools means District 11 can serve 288 students, 170 more than currently served by the kindergarten readiness program.
The target of the program is to ensure math and literacy proficiency for all learners by the end of third grade, Wolverton said.
According to Wolverton, “research on early education indicates that quality early education programs positively impact the academic achievement of students.”
This statement is especially true for students in poverty, Wolverton said.
The Minnesota Department of Education reviewed school readiness data and determined that a student’s school readiness at kindergarten entrance “significantly and consistently predicted third grade (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments) reading and math test scores and the need for school remedial services,” Wolverton said in her proposal.
The District 11 community education department currently offers preschool programs throughout the school district for three- to five-year old children as part of the school readiness program.
The school readiness program serves about 1,300 children in either a two- or three-day a week format for 2.75 hours per day. The students would receive instruction for 2.75 hours per day, four days a week.
Early childhood special education utilizes the program heavily for the placement of qualified children, Wolverton said.
The school readiness program is funded through parent fees, state aid and special education tuition.
The state appropriation for school readiness has not changed since 1991.
In addition, the community education department began coordinating with student services, special education and the Title programs a number of years ago to offer a kindergarten readiness program.
The kindergarten readiness program is a targeted program for four-year-old children that qualify for service because they are identified as ELL (English language learners), special education or low income.
With the Feb. 13 expansion, the district’s youngest children will be offered an enhanced education.
“This is an investment in the early ages,” Heidemann said of the Feb. 13 vote to expand ADED kindergarten and kindergarten readiness programs in the district.
Sue Austreng is at firstname.lastname@example.org