Full-day kindergarten seems to be one hot commodity.

In the program's first year, extended-day kindergarten classes have been set up in 40 percent of Utah elementary schools in all but two of Utah's 40 school districts. They're also offered in American Leadership Academy, Freedom Academy, Pinnacle Canyon Academy and Moab charter schools.

Just Piute and Morgan are shown not participating in the state program in a Wednesday report to the Legislature's Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which puts together the schools' budgets.

"So far at least the anecdotal evidence is that it's been very positive," state associate superintendent Brenda Hales said of the program.

Full-day kindergarten has been shown to drastically lift disadvantaged students who have not had the same at-home learning opportunities that more well-to-do students and native English speakers have. The idea is to better prepare all children for learning and at least narrow achievement gaps before they form.

The Utah Legislature last year approved a $30 million optional, extended-day kindergarten program, distributing $7.5 million a year for four years. The money goes to schools with the greatest need. Some school districts use other money to offer more full-day kindergarten courses.

Thirty-three districts and all four participating charter schools offer full-day kindergarten. Eleven have made half-day kindergarten longer, even though it's not considered a full-day class. And nine school districts have made kindergartners' school year longer, be it by offering summer school or extra hours or days beyond the mandatory 180 day and 990-hour school year.

"We should have solid data on which works best out of those three types of approaches," Hales said.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, questioned whether some of these programs have next to no children enrolled. The State Office of Education did not immediately have that enrollment information.

Hales agreed to provide it quickly, but noted she's only heard the opposite.

"I've heard from parents saying, 'Why don't we have this program in every one of our district's schools?"'


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