If Dalton McGuinty is re-elected and follows through on a promise to increase all kindergarten programs from half-day to all-day, people will only have to look to east Scarborough for an example of what can happen.
The all-day kindergarten program at St. Thomas More Catholic School is now in its fourth year after teachers and parents petitioned to have it extended beyond the three-year pilot program.
And they couldn’t be happier with the results.
Based on research done on students from the first year of the pilot program, studies show that halfway through Grade 1, children were already at the same reading comprehension level as second graders that went through the half-day program, says Teresa Tommasone, a teacher in the Thomas More kindergarten.
“I think every time Pat [Rogers, her co-instructor] and I are at a workshop presenting, before they even speak to us about anything, the question is ‘Are they going to be extending the program to the rest of the schools?’ ” Tommasone said.
“When I had the half day program only three or four children would be reading at the end of the year,” she said. “Most children were doing some writing, but not anything in comparison to what they’re doing now.”
Not only are more children learning to read, but they retain the knowledge over the course of the summer, she said.
“Of course, after two months vacation they may not have been reading but they’re saying, ‘There’s a word I learned in Kindergarten,’ ” said Marlene Colmer, one of the first grade teachers.
She believes by giving the children a running start to Grade 1, improving their skills becomes that much easier.
“We’re finding at this point we’re having children leave Grade 1 who are totally finished the three-year reading program at the P-Plus level, meaning they’ve read all the material they’re expected to read at end of Grade 3.
“Right now we’re only into the second week of September and I’ve got children who are writing stories on their religion illustrations while normally they wouldn’t be doing that until April,” Colmer said.
In the three years of the full-day program, only four children have left kindergarten unable to read; three came in half-way into the year and the fourth didn’t attend junior kindergarten, Rogers said.
The program fulfills parental, as well as academic needs, says Rogers. “We meet a number of academic needs, but also needs of parents who need something full-day for their child.”
One parent in particular, she said, was concerned that her child would not be able to remain in the program because they have to attend the school’s language program half-a-day, twice a week.
“As soon as she found out he’s still part of the program then she readily signed it,” she said.