MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In Minnesota, if you want to send your child to all-day kindergarten, you might have to pay for it.
Unlike 29 other states, Minnesota only funds half-day kindergarten. Gov. Mark Dayton proposed changing that Tuesday in his new budget. He proposed giving schools $910 for each student attending a free all-day, every day kindergarten program.
But is that extra investment in kindergarten worth it?
“It’s an expensive proposition, there’s no question about it,” said Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom, the director of University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI).
CAREI studied an all-day kindergarten program in Burnsville, which was free to all parents for one year.
“We found there were clear differences in the groups of kids who had all-day kindergarten and those who did not,” Wahlstrom said.
In reading, the all-day kindergarten program essentially eliminated the income and racial achievement gaps.
“The amount of learning in six hours wasn’t that it was accelerated, it was so much more in depth,” Wahlstrom said.
That had the effect of boosting up kids who were totally unprepared for school. Kids who were ready, however, likely didn’t get as much of a boost from being in school all day long, she said.
Interestingly, the improvement in performance in kindergarten lasted through fourth grade in Burnsville.
“We were following the same kids over five years and found they had maintained the gains they made when they were in all-day kindergarten,” Wahlstrom said.
Students who attended all-day kindergarten far outscored their classmates who had attended kindergarten outside of the district on the standardized math and reading tests, according to the CAREI report.