Thursday, January 03, 2008

Full Day Kindergarten

The educational benefits of full day Kindergarten are generally recognized and seldom challenged.

A substantial body of research indicates that graduates of full day programs enter the crucial first and second grades with more advanced understanding in both language and mathematics and are prepared to capitalize on a rigorous and more fast-paced curriculum. These early gains have been shown to continue into the third grade in some of the most recent research.

For communities trying to address the achievement gap issue, FDK offers more benefits. The research also shows that at risk students enrolled in FDK programs substantially close the gap in educational achievement. This is true for all three segments of this group – language, socioeconomic and racial based.

A program that both raises the level of performance of all, while addressing the needs of those at risk is one we should pay attention to.

Thus, the actions by the Milton School Committee to introduce FDK in Milton is a very positive step. Paradoxically, it could have a negative impact if we’re not careful about its structure and implementation.

The current estimates of the cost of the program is around $400,000. I’m not sure whether that includes the savings to be enjoyed from a likely substantial reduction in the half-day program, which legally we would have to maintain. Funding this out of the current inadequate budget is simply not tenable. The likelihood of receiving additional money for it in this year’s budget, given the state of our finances, is nil. So the School Committee has decided to introduce the program on a fee basis.

Statewide fee-based programs run from $400 per child to over $4,000, with the average around $2600. The sad fact is that many people are not able to afford something like $2600, or possibly more. The Committee is looking at a sliding scale for fees in recognition of this. I hope they arrive at something considerably less than the average for those most in need. It is this very group from which a substantially large proportion of at risk students come. And so the paradox. A FDK program that financially excludes at risk students will turn an opportunity to close the achievement gap into an exercise that increases it, as those able to afford it make increased strides in educational preparation.

First and foremost this type of outcome would be a tragedy for the individual student. It would also create an educational problem down the road for the schools, as additional scarce resources would need to be pinpointed for remediation. This is not likely to be a one or two year proposition. Although we may not be hearing much about it yet, the near term budgetary news is not going to be good. We need to be thinking about how we can keep this from becoming a two-tiered educational system over an extended period of time.

This issue is on the School Committee’s agenda for next Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 7:00 pm.

For research on FDK:



Can you remember the time, just over a decade ago, when critics were pooh-poohing the internet as a phenomenon that really had no practical purpose. Businesses didn’t think they should invest too much into it. Advertisers and agencies couldn’t imagine how they would make money with it. Retailers refused to believe that consumers would ever trust online payment systems enough to conduct commerce with it. The basic freedom of one to one contact seemed like some kind of futurist’s chicken dinner circuit subject matter.

Today, people in the developed world have seen their lives changed by the digital revolution. Corporate America has diverted billions of dollars of marketing expenditures to the world wide web. Information, of varying degrees of quality, are available at the click of a mouse. And commerce is flourishing. We buy books, prescription drugs, clothes, wine, jewelry, and just about anything else you can think of through our web browsers without leaving the house.

Now, thanks to two Stanford graduates, the same technologies are being put to use as a powerful tool for international social involvement. facilitates mico-loans to start up and very small enterprises in poor regions all around the world. Who are the bankers supplying these loans? People like you and me.

It works like this. has partners in developing countries to identify and vet individuals who have a business idea and need money to realize their dream. The loan requests are usually between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars. Information about the business and owner are displayed on’s website. Using the same kind of online payment systems designed for commerce, individuals from around the world invest in this much needed capital formation. They go to the site, select from number of investment opportunities, and participate by loaning as little as $25. When fully subscribed the loans are made. Periodic reports of the progress of the business are posted online, and the loans are repaid in 10 months to a year.

At that point you return your small amount to your bank account, or invest it in something else. This organization has really begun to take off. In the past week over 13,000 lenders joined Kiva. $800,000 was loaned to almost 1200 businesses. The organization is very upfront about risk, and you can read the extensive information on each loan and region. But for as little as $25 you can help entrepreneurs who have no other resource build their economies one small business at a time. It puts an entirely new, post digital world twist on Tip O’Neill’s aphorism: “All politics is local.”

Check out

The 1909 Wing

Check out this YouTube video on the demolition of the old wing of the former High School- to Steely Dan’s _My Old School_. Turn up your speakers!