Additional information on the importance of literacy can be found here.
GOAL: To have all third graders reading at a third-grade reading level by the end of third grade.
Work of the Early Literacy Committee
In October of 2014, an Early Literacy Committee comprised of teachers, administrators, a school psychologist and guidance counselor was formed to study the aforementioned data and research full-day programs to formulate a plan for what a full-day kindergarten program would look like in Parkland. The results of their findings can be found here and were also presented publicly during September and October 2015 School Board meetings.
Parkland School District is known for its excellence and its wide range of opportunities in academics, the arts, and athletics. A caring, nurturing and safe environment is found at every school. However, a missing link in Parkland is a full-day kindergarten program. This has been discussed as a goal of the District since the development of the 2008-2014 strategic plan. Soon after that strategic plan was published, the great recession hit, and unfortunately, the financial crisis caused the District to put that goal on hold. However, the case for support of a full-day kindergarten program in Parkland has only grown stronger since then, with the goal resurfacing during the 2015-2018 comprehensive planning process. It is reinforced by hard data which you will find in the following sections of this report.
Amidst a groundswell of state and national research in support of full-day kindergarten programs, it may be surprising to note that Pennsylvania is one of only six states in the country that does not require kindergarten at all. However, according to the KIDS COUNT Data Center in 2015, 462 out of Pennsylvania’s 501 school districts offer a full-day kindergarten program, underscoring the importance and commitment of public school districts to find a way to engage their youngest learners in a strong foundation for learning.
54% of Incoming Parkland Kindergartners Did Not Meet Benchmark Literacy Levels
Parkland students in Kindergarten through 5th grade are administered the STAR Universal screener at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. The chart below shows that only 46% of incoming Parkland Kindergartners possess the readiness skills necessary to achieve a score of Benchmark, meaning they on are level. A full day program would allow time for an intervention and enrichment period for Kindergarten. During this period, students would be provided with targeted instruction specific to their individual needs.
2015 Beginning of the Year Early Literacy Screening Results
The Importance of Reading Proficiency by Third Grade
Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success.
In Parkland, 80% of third graders are reading proficiently by third grade. That is noteworthy compared to the national average of 67%, 80% of which come from low-income families. There are long-term social costs associated with students not reading on grade level by the end of third grade. The research is compelling: Students who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely than proficient readers to drop out of high school. The costs associated with high school dropouts, including the cost of jail and crime, is a cost our entire society will bear.
Parkland’s goal is to have every student reading on grade level by the end of third grade. Full-day Kindergarten would provide time for an intervention and enrichment period which would help to close the educational gap before it widens.
Third Grade End of Year Literacy Results
Demographic changes are occurring within the school district. The number of students in Parkland who qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch has increased from single digits to 24.6% in just the last decade, Parkland educators realize that a change must occur or the gap in reading proficiency is going to widen. Out of the 20% of Parkland 3rd graders who are not reading proficiently, 38% come from families who are living in a low-income household.
PSD 2015 Low-income Grade 3 Literacy Results
Parkland’s Free and Reduced-priced Lunch Population is 24.6% as of May 2015
This chart shows how the demographics have shifted in Parkland over the last three years. Data was pulled in May of 2013. 2014 and 2015.
Making a Year’s Growth
Throughout the school year, Parkland teachers continually review data to monitor the progress of each student. At the elementary level, the STAR screening is used to measure the progress of students from the beginning to the end of the year. Below is a chart showing our Kindergartens last two years’ worth of growth by building. Notice that no Parkland school made that full year’s growth in kindergarten. However, our grade 1-5 students have been able to make a full year’s growth or more during the course of a school year. By offering a full-day program, Parkland teachers feel they will significantly improve the growth in learning during the course of the kindergarten year. It would provide additional opportunities to close the achievement gap and increase the percentage of students that reach benchmark status and are ready for first grade.
End of the Year STAR Data Screening Exam Results
Illustrates Students are Not Achieving a Year’s Worth of Growth
|SCHOOL||KINDERGARTEN END OF YEAR GROWTH RATE (13-14 SY)||KINDERGARTEN END OF YEAR GROWTH RATE (14-15 SY)|
Purposeful play provides opportunities for inquiry-based learning. Children explore answers to their questions through hands-on interaction with materials, build their questioning skills, and enhance their understanding of key academic concepts. Play impacts the 4 domains of development: Physical, Cognitive, Language and Literacy, and Social and Emotional. The current schedule provides little time for play or hands-on learning that stimulates curiosity and a desire for learning. The small window of time is filled with academic preparedness as teachers try and fit in a year’s worth of curriculum in a half-day program. In a full-day kindergarten program, Parkland students would have time to play, develop social/emotional skills, and participate in intervention and enrichment opportunities.
Full-day kindergarten will require the addition of staff, which will add recurring costs to our budget. Some of these costs will be offset by the reduction in mid-day transportation runs that full-day kindergarten will allow, but in total, additional expenses will be incurred to implement the program. However, the district enjoys a very strong financial position and currently has the lowest millage rate of any school district in the Lehigh county. Providing funding for full-day kindergarten and bridging the literacy gap that we are seeing with our changing demographics should also help shift funds away from remediation and intervention costs spent later in a child’s academic career. According to recent research released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (http://www.aecf.org/resources/early-warning-confirmed/) improvements in educational outcomes produced a long-term return on investment of $8.24 for every $1 spent during the first four to six years of school, including pre-school and kindergarten programs.
The district looks at full-day kindergarten as a proactive investment to address the significant learning needs we are seeing from our youngest students so we can build a strong foundation that ensures their future academic success.
More Information and Resources
For a complete list of links to public presentations on this subject, the Early Literacy Committee web site, and more resources, please visit the Parkland Vision 2015-2030 website within the Superintendent’s Office site here.