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Extended Day Kindergarten

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Test scores and local studies suggest Utah's experiment with optional extended-day kindergarten has been a resounding success. While nitpickers may find fault with the results, it would be folly not to continue the program.

Since the legislature authorized the four-year pilot program in 2006, the state has spent some $7.5 million annually to hold 250 voluntary all-day kindergarten classes throughout the state. Last year some 8,000 students or 18-percent of kindergarten students in the state participated. Most would be considered at-risk kids, or those most in need of more intensive instruction.

Studies show the at-risk kids in extended day programs may score much lower than their regular kindergarten peers on literacy tests at the beginning of the year, but catch up by year's end. National studies show the academic boost in math is also significant.

It isn't baby-sitting and it isn't intended as day care. Rather, it is proving to be an effective tool for helping to close education's disturbing achievement gap. In fact, studies over the years suggest full-day programs are cost effective because they reduce the need for remediation in later grades.

KSL realizes the economy is still gloomy and money will be tight during the upcoming legislative session. Still, continued funding for voluntary extended-day kindergarten should be a priority.

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