Ducey, Crow, superintendents push for all-day kindergarten

Governor Doug Ducey answers a question about the need for all-day kindergarten in Arizona Tuesday morning. (Craig Johnson/DD)

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, ASU President Michael Crow and school superintendents across the Valley made the case for full-day kindergarten Tuesday at the Power of K Breakfast in Arizona’s PBS Studios.

The event marks a statewide initiative to provide students with quality education to improve early language and literacy skills.

Ducey took the stage first at the event, and highlighted the importance of early education.

“We are here today with one common goal, and that is to bring the words ‘opportunity to all’ to life for all of Arizona’s children,” Ducey said. “We are committing to rise as a state and move the needle forward in career and college readiness.”

The movement toward full-day kindergarten has come about in part thanks to Ducey’s Achieve60AZ program, which aims to increase graduation rates, raise awareness of higher education and to engage businesses, governments and educators to align workforce needs. Achieve60AZ has partnered with more than 60 organizations to support a goal of 60 percent of working-age adults with a professional certificate or college degree by 2030.

These goals cannot be met without proper education starting at an early age, Ducey said.

“Early literacy is central to Achieve60AZ’s success,” Ducey said. “We know that a child’s success in school and life starts with and depends on their ability to read, write, speak and listen … These skills aren’t something children should have, they’re something that children must have.”

Arizona State University, which partners with Achieve60AZ, has been recognized as the leader in innovation for education. A U.S. News ranking recently named the school the most innovative university in America for the second year in a row. President Michael Crow joined the discussion Tuesday and spoke of the necessity for a solid educational foundation.

“It is necessary that we rethink the centrality of education,” Crow said. “The most important variable in driving social mobility forward is educational obtainment.”

A handout distributed at the event cited a 2005 study conducted by WestEd, a nonprofit research, development and service agency. The study looked at 17,000 children in Philadelphia and found that students who attended full-day kindergarten had better attendance records and higher grade point averages than half-day students.

The push for full-day kindergarten would allow educators to focus more time on literacy practices for students, an aspect that is central to a child’s success, according to Crow.

“The single most important predictor of a child’s ultimate educational and economical success is their vocabulary at age four,” Crow said. “I can think of nothing more important than tackling the educational continuum update at the earliest possible point.”

Arizona’s largest public school district, Mesa, offers both full and half-day kindergarten experiences. The Arizona Department of Education states that a half-day of kindergarten is two and a half hours each day while a full day is defined as six and a half hours. Superintendent Michael Cowan hopes to have more full-day opportunities for Arizona in the future.

The amount of time a teacher has to implement a full subject load in a half-day is simply not enough, Cowan said.

“It all comes down to time, adequate and sufficient time to meet the needs of all children so they can be successful,” Cowan said. “We owe our children a great start, a great launch into their educational experience so they can be value added, contributing members of society and not distract from our goals and objectives as a community.”

Correction: September 21, 2016

An earlier version of this story misidentified Michael Cowan as Michael Corwin. It has been updated with his correct name.

Contact the reporter at Jackson.Dorsey@asu.edu.