A letter to the Ames School Board

I am taking the opportunity to write this note to speak to the school board as I will be unable to attend the board meeting to express my concern over the board’s plan to reduce all full-time kindergarten to half-time. As an educator and administrator I know how difficult and trying the current economic times are. I am also aware that sometimes cuts have to be made in unpleasant places in-order to maintain the districts financial obligations and liquidity. It is also very apparent that schools are held to much higher standards with regards to academic success now, more than ever before. With these things in mind it is folly to reduce a proven educational resource that will, in the long run damage the academic standing of a great district in the state of Iowa.

Over the last decade, or so, as schools have started to move away from the half-day kindergarten model many different groups have taken the opportunity to evaluate the success of such undertakings. Ignoring the findings in these research based articles (or that they even exist) would be a near dereliction of duty. In a recent article published by NCES (National Center for Educational Statistics) the research found “that public school, first-time kindergarten children in full-day classes are making greater gains in read- ing/language arts and in mathematics achievement. As found in other studies, children in a full-day kindergarten program generally make greater gains in both reading and math compared to children in half-day kindergarten.” There is even more research on the importance of full-day Kindergarten for minority, low SES, and other undeserved populations. In article after article, journal after journal it has been proven that a full-day Kindergarten is an important stepping stone for future academic success.

As new directions come down from the state and federal government (NCLB, Iowa Core, Early Childhood classes) it is important to be poised to provide the greatest education that Ames can offer and meet mandates and expectations from law makers. The Iowa Core Curriculum has essential skills and outcomes that specifically address the Kindergarten level, and from my perspective these can not be mastered fully in half-day or alternating day schedules. NCLB is an unfortunate reality in today’s educational landscape and putting Ames CSD behind six to nine months due to a schedule can only harm the district in the long run.

I realize that there are many items to consider and in the end I know that not everyone will be happy, but reducing full-time Kindergarten will have long term and far reaching effects that I feel the board is over looking. I have attached a few research articles that I found interesting and help support the importance of a full day Kindergarten.

As a father of three children (5, 3, and 20 months) this issue strikes very close to home with me. We are very supportive of Sawyer elementary and my son loves going to school everyday, and I have seen great improvements to his reading and math skills compared to when he started in Mrs. Fisher’s classroom. I hope that the board will do their due diligence and research fully ALL budgetary choices and do what is best for every student, and future student, in the Ames district.

Karl H. Hehr

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