Supt's. Plan Calls for Expanded Full-Day Kindergarten

October 15, 2003
A four-year expansion of full-day kindergarten to all elementary schools in Montgomery County would provide the highly successful services to needy students as soon as possible, while ensuring that each community cluster is included, according to recommendations made today [Wednesday, October 15] to the Board of Education by Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools.

The proposed plan would open 17 new programs each year for the next three years, beginning next fall, with the final 14 programs opening in the fall of 2007, the fourth year of the expansion effort. The effort will be considered with the new capital budget and Capital Improvement Program (CIP) recommendations being released at the end of this month.

In all, 65 new full-day programs would be started at schools throughout the county (including two new planned elementary schools), in addition to three schools set to reopen in the next three years to relieve overcrowding in schools that already offer full-day kindergarten.

The plan is based, in part, on recommendations of a broad-based task force formed last spring to review possible expansion options necessary to meet state requirements of the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act of 2002. The law mandates full-day kindergarten in every school by September 2007.

Currently, full-day kindergarten is offered in the 56 elementary schools with the highest level of poverty in the county, forming an attendance area that spans from Takoma Park to Germantown. The program grew from just nine schools in 1999 as part of a comprehensive effort, recommended by Dr. Weast, to improve student achievement in schools most heavily affected by student poverty.

Studies over the past three years have identified the continuing positive effect of full-day kindergarten and the significant progress in reading and mathematics among students extending into Grade 2. Their progress reflects the sustained benefits of a stronger curriculum, more instructional opportunity, and improved teaching and learning in the full-day program.

Full-day kindergarten in Montgomery County continues to be featured nationally as a model success story. Last spring a national policy forum sponsored by the Committee for Economic Development and the Institute for Educational Leadership underscored its relevancy in light of reforms under the No Child Left Behind Act. Next spring, the program will be featured at the national conferences of the National School Boards Association and the American Association of School Administrators, focusing on the long-term benefits of a better early start in school.

By the end of the proposed expansion effort, 125 elementary schools would have the program, with the neediest schools as the primary recipients. The plan also would expand the program to include at least one new school in each community cluster each year.

“There are needy children in every school in the county, and these students should not necessarily be penalized because they attend a school that is considered to have less need,” said Dr. Weast in making his recommendation to the Board of Education.

“I believe that this recommendation provides an equitable implementation of full-day kindergarten throughout the county by giving the schools with the greatest need full-day kindergarten first, while also recognizing that there are needy students living in clusters that are historically not considered needy,” said Dr. Weast.

The full recommendation and schedule for implementation are available online:

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