School districts and charter schools throughout Arizona may offer parents the choice of sending their children to a full day of kindergarten. Many benefits exist for children who attend full-day kindergarten programs, not the least of which is greater school success in later years. Parents and teachers alike also benefit from children's presence in an all day setting further increasing the positive effects on children's learning.
Parents of pupils who meet the enrollment requirements (age five by September 1 or age five by January 1 if the governing board deems it is in the best interest of the child) for voluntary kindergarten programs in a school district or charter school that offers Full-Day Kindergarten instruction may choose either half-day kindergarten instruction or full-day kindergarten instruction. Understanding that each child is an individual, the decision to send a child to a half-day or full day of kindergarten should include consideration of all the child's needs and abilities.
Researchers have found many benefits related to children's attendance in a Full-Day Kindergarten setting. In a summary of research on Full-Day Kindergarten, the Arizona State Department of Education found that although length of day plays a crucial role in the attainment of these benefits, professionals also seem to agree that providing children with instruction that is developmentally and individually appropriate is equally as important. Practitioners find that the positive effects of full-day kindergarten are best seen in settings where students learn through a combination of teacher and child initiated activities, explore topics in depth and are provided the opportunities to work in both small and large groups. Some additional benefits include:
Benefits for Students
More "time and opportunity to play with language" as well as to explore subjects in depth
A more flexible, individualized learning environment
More individual and small-group interaction with the teacher than is possible in most half-day classrooms
Benefits for Parents
Lowered childcare costs possible
The opportunity for lower-income families to enroll children in a higher quality early education program that might otherwise be affordable in the private market
Less difficulty scheduling childcare and transportation, especially when more than one child is enrolled in the same school
Increased opportunities to get involved in their children's classroom, as well as to communicate with the teacher
Benefits for Teachers
Reduced ratio of transition time to learning time
More time to spend with students individually and in small groups
More time to get to know and communicate with parents
More time to assess students and individualize instruction to their needs and interests
Fewer total students (20 to 25 per year as compared to 40 to 50) than in two half-day classrooms
Standards provide the framework for instruction at all grade levels, including kindergarten. The expectation is that children exiting kindergarten and moving on to first grade will have mastery of a variety of skills and concepts. Select Arizona’s Standards and Resources for Kindergarten to view the standards.
Implementing a quality Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) program requires planning and funding. Each individual district or charter will make decisions about which schools receive money and how it will be spent. A school district that establishes a full-day kindergarten program shall allow each parent of a kindergarten pupil to choose either half-day kindergarten instruction or full-day kindergarten instruction per A.R.S. 15-703.B. To find out more about the kindergarten programs offered by a specific school, contact information is found in the Arizona Department of Education School Directory.
According to the Arizona Education Code 15-821 (C), “a child is eligible for admission to kindergarten if the child is five years of age. A child is deemed five years of age if the child reached the age of five before September 1 of the current school year… The governing board may admit children who have not reached the required age as prescribed by this subsection if it is determined to be in the best interest of the children. Such children must reach the required age of five for kindergarten…by January 1 of the current school year.” Contact your local school district or charter for specific information about their admission policy.
According to the Arizona Education Code 15-821 (C), “a child is eligible for first grade if the child is six years of age. A child is deemed six years of age if the child reaches the age of six before September 1 of the current school year. The governing board may admit children who have not reached the required age as prescribed by this subsection if it is determined to be in the best interest of the children. For children entering the first grade, such determination shall be based upon one or more consultations with the parent, parents, guardians, the children, the teacher and the school principal. Such children must reach the required age… of six for first grade by January 1 of the current school year.” Contact your local school district or charter for specific information about their admission policy. title="Immunization Information" The Arizona Department of Health Service (ADHS) Immunization Program office web site provides helpful information regarding immunization schedules for children and adults as well as brief descriptions of the diseases for which vaccines are given. ADHS offers information on immunization requirements for children to attend schools and child care centers as well as background on the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. Funded by the federal government, VFC is a program that provides children with vaccines at no cost to families who may opt out of vaccination because of an inability to pay. All school and childcare centers must require children in attendance to be adequately immunized. The law requires parents or guardians to present a documented immunization record, which includes dates of all required immunizations.
Under ARS § 15-901(2)(a)(i), kindergarten programs must serve children for a minimum number of hours to receive funding. The required hours are 356 hours per year. The minimum number of days a school must provide services during the academic year is 180 (ARS § 15-341.01). Serving children for 356 hours over a 180 day period translates to less than 2 hours per instructional day. Districts are currently funded at a half-day level for each kindergarten student. Some school districts and charter schools in Arizona offer a full day kindergarten program or an enrichment program that takes place outside of state-funded kindergarten hours. Districts may utilize other revenue such as Early Childhood Block Grant money, other budget resources or parent tuition for this option to help defray the costs of extending the kindergarten day.
To find out more about the kindergarten programs offered by a specific school, contact the school district. Click the link to find out more information about the school district in your area.
For children, a smooth transition from preschool to kindergarten takes a collective effort from the community that surrounds them. According to Head Start's Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC), "by coordinating transition efforts, preschool and elementary programs can help children maintain and maximize the gains they made in preschool" (ECLKC Transition to Kindergarten ) To see successful transitions taking place, schools, instructional staff, families, and the community must plan for success. Familiarizing children with the kindergarten terrain before them, through introductions to the kindergarten classroom, teachers, and expectations; helps to minimize any stress associated with the transition. Whether a child is moving from a preschool, child care, or home setting, planning for a seamless transition process should take place over the entire pre-kindergarten year, not simply 2-3 months prior to preschool graduation. Administrators, early childhood professionals, child care providers and kindergarten teachers, as well as families can use the tips and resources below as guidance through the process.
Tips for Educators and Administrators
Create an implementation plan to ensure effective transitions for all children
Establish a kindergarten transition committee and identify the goals of your committee (i.e. To support all children in becoming ready for school)
Determine activities that will occur in your school to foster specific connections between child-school, family-school, school-school, and school-community.
Some examples include:
In the months leading up to graduation from preschool, preschool teachers can talk and read books to the class about kindergarten (expectations, daily schedule, etc.)
Arrange for preschool children to meet their kindergarten teacher prior to the start of the school year
Toward the end of their preschool year, teachers can give children the opportunity to practice some kindergarten rules and routines
Hold a parent orientation so families may familiarize themselves with the school and staff
Preschool directors and support staff meet to discuss ways to support children of varying backgrounds, needs, and abilities
Tips for Parents
Your child is unique, knowledgeable, and capable of achieving amazing things! Sharing helpful information about your child with his or her kindergarten teacher can aid in a smooth transition from preschool to the K-12 realm. There are so many ways that parents can encourage learning and development in the home, you are probably doing some of the activities below already:
Read to children at least 30 minutes each day
Provide children with opportunities to make good decisions and smart choices
Build a positive relationship with your child's teacher(s)
Find creative ways to turn everyday routines, such as getting dressed and eating dinner, into learning opportunities
Familiarize yourself with the new kindergarten, the teacher, classroom, and school as a whole
Attend orientations and family engagement activities hosted by your child's school
In 2013, the Arizona Department of Education joined a multi-state consortium led by North Carolina to develop and implement a Kindergarten Developmental Inventory (KDI) that will be available in Arizona for all kindergarten classrooms in the 2017-18 school year.
The Kindergarten Developmental Inventory (KDI) is an assessment that kindergarten teachers will use to obtain an in-depth understanding of the developmental strengths and needs of every child. It is intended to be used as a formative assessment—as a tool used throughout the entire school year to help teachers identify the depths of each child’s knowledge and abilities in all areas of development: (1) Social and Emotional, (2) Language and Communication, (3) Approaches to Learning, (4) Cognitive, and (5) Physical.
This dynamic, highly engaging process of assessing children requires the intentional observation of children in order to truly understand their individual learning needs. Teachers will gather multiple forms of evidence that may include observational/anecdotal notes, samples of meaningful work such as drawings or stories written by the child, voice recorded language samples, photographs of meaningful experiences, and videos of children figuring out complex problems or engaging in the process of discovery. The wealth of information gleaned from this collection of evidence should be used to drive decision making including (1) the planning of developmentally appropriate opportunities for learning, (2) identifying individualized goals and systems of support, when needed, (3) and the implementation of effective instructional strategies for individual children, for small groups, and for the classroom community of learners.
In an effort to prepare teachers and administrators for the implementation of the KDI, a professional development pilot entitled The Kindergarten Project was created in 2013. As a collaborative effort between the Arizona Department of Education, Alesi Group, LLC, and the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Foundation, The Kindergarten Project aimed to research and identify evidence-based kindergarten practices that support the whole child and increase the likelihood of academic and lifelong success.
The Kindergarten Experience, an extension of The Kindergarten Project, is a series of dynamic professional development trainings, workshops and opportunities that offer a comprehensive lens for evidence-based practices that support the whole child in kindergarten. These identified practices are the foundation for the effective and successful implementation of the Kindergarten Developmental Inventory.