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“There were no gaps at all between these students,” said Kyla Wahlstrom, one of the researchers. “Even with what we’ve considered risk factors in the past, students in all-day kindergarten had significant gains.”
Eva Phillips, an assistant professor at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, called Minnesota’s decision to fund all-day kindergarten “a great opportunity.”
She said kindergarten serves as a crucial bridge between childhood and early grades when students learn skills that will carry them through adulthood. “In my opinion, it’s more of what’s good,” she said.
‘Exhausting’ for some kids
Most school districts have made the switch to all-day kindergarten. About 54,000 students, or 95 percent of the state’s kindergartners, will attend all-day kindergarten this year, according to the state Department of Education. Nationally, about 76 percent of all kindergarten students attend all-day classes. About a dozen states require full-day programming at no cost to parents.
Under the law, schools are not obligated to offer half-day classes. Schools must honor parents who want their children to participate in only a half-day, however.
Parents overwhelmingly favor all-day kindergarten, according to surveys conducted this spring by several Minnesota school districts.
“I’m really glad this is how my tax dollars are being spent,” said Dan Riley, whose son, Jackson, is set to attend kindergarten at Horace Mann in St. Paul. “Quite frankly, we would pay for it if we had to because we believe it’s what our son needs.”
Some parents do worry. Many 5-year-olds still take naps; some have little experience interacting with other kids, and some are immature for their age.
“You really have to be alert to their physical needs,” Magnuson said. “They’re getting exposed to this constant barrage of new people. It’s exhausting. I’ve had some parents say their child practically passes out at the dinner table.”
There was no doubt for Tia Bastian that her daughter, Avery, was ready. “She learned so much in preschool — we really want to see that progress continue.”
Kim McGuire • 612-673-4469