The following Associated Press article on learning in kindergarten appeared in The State newspaper of South Carolina (8-28):
TAMPA, Fla. — "In her first year as a full-time student, Hannah Barrionuevo wrote a book about a dog searching for its mother and crafted a second one about a talented rabbit.
"‘It’s done,’ she said, thumbing through her latest work. ‘I just have to publish it.’ She’s 6.
"In Hillsborough County, Fla., kindergartners have long tackled weighty assignments during full-day classes, the kind of schedule that is being embraced by schools across the country.
"Almost two in three kindergartners nationwide, or 65 percent of them, are in school five to six hours a day. That percentage of full-day students has doubled since the early 1980s….
"The academic demands of kindergarten have jumped, too, for this generation of students. As the entry point to public schools in the United States, kindergarten is increasingly seen not as a soft step into first grade, but rather as a time of substance and standards.
"‘The kids are ready,’ said Lisa Bellock, the [Hillsborough County] district’s kindergarten supervisor. ‘They really want to learn. They don’t just want to be baby-sat.’
"Although early-education specialists acknowledge more research is needed on the long-term benefits and drawbacks of full-day kindergarten, existing studies show clear advantages.
"An Education Department analysis found that children in full-day classes made greater gains in reading and math than half-day students, even after adjusting for such factors as poverty status and class size. Full-day classes also devote more time to math, social studies and science and to specific skills, such as writing the alphabet, the study found.
"At Heritage Elementary in Tampa, teacher Lotus Eckstein assigns her students to write stories and put them into bound ‘books’ using a computer and some adult help. Another hands-on lesson lets students see which objects float in pond water, the kind of field trip that Eckstein, a 29-year-teacher, said ‘we simply didn’t have time for in a half-day program.’…
"When school began in Tampa last year, Moira Kelley knew her son Landon was ready for a full day with no nap time at age 5. He practiced his emerging vocabulary at home, surprising his mom by using ‘recuperate’ to describe how his play soldier was dealing with injuries….
"In the classroom in Tampa, teachers keep each lesson to about 15 minutes, understanding that kindergartners work better by staying active and moving among learning stations.
"The math lesson? Counting blocks and measuring the size of red, orange and yellow fish. The English lesson? Writing stories about special moments, like making breakfast with mom.
"By 12:30 p.m. one day last spring, when students in half-day programs would be heading home, Eckstein’s students were engrossed in story time and a lesson about parts of the body.
"And when students finished their day at 1:50 p.m., it was hard to find a tired face.
"‘They’re all ready for it,’ said parent Babette Doutt-Nesmith, as her son, Morgan, and his classmates grabbed their backpacks after another full day. ‘And they love it.’"
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