Kindergarten teachers from area schools praised the implementation of full-day kindergarten Monday night, saying the program raised students' standardized math test scores to almost equal the national average for first-graders.
Full-day kindergarten was eliminated in 2001 and reinstated in eight elementary schools last year. The new program has boosted academic and social learning, has benefited at-risk students and gives teachers more time to identify and act upon students' strengths and weaknesses, teachers said.
Terry McEwen, director of assessment for Lawrence public schools, said the average mathematics test scores at full-day kindergarten schools was 163.9, compared with 158.1 nationally. The national average for first-graders was 164.1.
"That gives you a feeling for the fact, with full-day kindergarten, our teachers have the time to address that particular subject and our students are responding, and it appears our students are doing very well in mathematics," he said.
In tests that measure students' grasp of reading skills, such as letter naming, the number of at-risk students decreased from 21.5 percent at the beginning of the school year to 12.1 percent this spring. In contrast, the results of last year's tests resulted in an increase of at-risk students, rising to 24.7 percent, from 24.2 percent.
Superintendent Randy Weseman said he was pleased with the results, especially given that the program is only a year old.
"I think that the data are indicative of a program that's really working," he said. "It's really doing everything we hoped it would do for early childhood."
Board members expressed confidence that the full-day kindergarten program will eventually expand to all of Lawrence's elementary schools.
McEwen said the school district would follow the academic progress of students that participated in the program as a way to measure the long-term benefits of full-day kindergarten.