District 202 Says Full-Day Kindergarten Pilot Shows Early Signs Of Success

Linda Merdian, a full-day kindergarten teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, helps a student write the day’s theme on the board for the class. (submitted)

Submitted By District 202

A Beatles tune played as students in Linda Merdian’s full-day kindergarten class drew pictures and wrote their names in their journals.

A few minutes later the class of 24 students at Lincoln Elementary School gathered on the rug in front of Merdian to sing a song, discuss the date and sing Happy Birthday to a classmate.

Merdian is one of 17 teachers in this year’s pilot full-day kindergarten program at District 202. The program is serving 408 students this school year spread across the district’s 17 elementary schools.

The curriculum is the same for half- and full-day kindergarten. The big difference is teachers get more time and can incorporate more play-based learning in the full-day program, said the veteran teacher.

For example, one student announced to the class that he was leaving early for a modeling audition. Merdian seized the opportunity to ask if the class knew what audition meant.

Several students guessed the meaning of the unfamiliar word. A bath? A job?

“Math!” answers another boy.

“Oh you mean addition,” Merdian said, praising the student for associating a similar sounding word to audition.

Other full-day kindergarten teachers have also said the program has been beneficial for learning and teaching, said Tammy Sroczynski, Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction.

“The extra time during the day also allows more time for students to develop social and emotional skills that includes sharing, taking turns, and problem solving,” Sroczynski said.

They also get more time to read or just socialize with fellow students.

Full-day kindergarten has long been a key goal for District 202. It was identified as one of four top priorities in the 2011-16 Strategic Plan.

District 202 doesn’t have enough space to offer full-day kindergarten to all eligible students. However, the Board of Education and district administration decided last year to implement a pilot program this year with one classroom in each of the 17 elementary schools.

Each class serves 24 students. Students were chosen through a random, online lottery and pay $100 in monthly tuition to offset the materials and extra personnel costs.

In October, the district will start assessing building space to determine if it can continue to house or expand full-day kindergarten next year, said Mina Griffith, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services.

The district will notify the public about the lottery no later than December 2016, Griffith said.

Meanwhile, this year’s full-day kindergarten students continue to learn and grow.

Organic conversations like the one about the definition of “addition” can enrich a kindergartner’s education, Merdian said.

Such conversations may not happen in half-day kindergarten because there often isn’t as much time for them, she said.

Full-day kindergarten also allows Merdian to give her students more time to work in different stations such as science or art.

“This is a dream for me and them,” Merdian said, pointing to the class seated in front of her.

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