The kindergarten classes of our youth are long gone, replaced by a more intense, advanced experience meant to give our children a strong jumpstart on their academic journeys.
The switch to full-day, full-time kindergarten for Spring Lake and Grand Haven schools appears to be a smart move. Fruitport schools went this route three years ago and, by published accounts, found only positive results. Let’s take heart in their experience.
While we should embrace the start of full-time kindergarten for most of our local schools, we shall despair the end of Young Fives in Spring Lake. The program prepared hundreds of children for success through the years.
We can’t expect the Spring Lake school district to continue funding Young Fives when they’ll be tapping diminishing resources to provide full-time kindergarten, but we can still mourn its demise. Now youngsters not quite ready to enter kindergarten won’t have no-cost access to the academic preparation they might need.
While private kindergarten-readiness programs will likely rise to the need, poorer children will end up paying the price. Their parents will likely be unable to afford such private instruction and children could be shuffled into full-day kindergarten curriculum for which they might not be adequately prepared. The achievement gap between the wealthy and less-wealthy will grow. How that translates into children’s long-term academic progress remains to be seen.
In a world where ACT scores and GPAs dictate the path to success for our teens, we must remain ever mindful of the quality of early childhood development.
Success in the end, researchers say, is often predetermined by our formative early years.
Local philanthropy groups and educational leaders should brainstorm solutions to make sure that our young fives get every opportunity their older sisters and brothers enjoyed. They should work to forge a path ahead where no child is left behind.