Madison full-day 4k students had gains similar to half-day peers

Scott Girard:

A report last month showed that students in Madison schools’ full-day and half-day 4-year-old kindergarten programs had similar academic gains over the 2021-22 school year.

The results of the study, which covers the first year of the Madison Metropolitan School District’s full-day 4K program, weren’t a surprise to Director of Early Learning Culleen Witthuhn, given how “tricky” it is to look at academic information for 4-year-olds.

Plus, Witthuhn said, the full-day 4K implementation wasn’t necessarily about seeing better test results for 4-year-olds.

“(That) really wasn’t our goal or our intent,” Witthuhn said. “It was really to provide access to families who typically might not have been able to have any high-quality, early learning experiences at all otherwise.”

Accessing half-day programming can be difficult for families experiencing homelessness, or who have parents or caregivers who work full-time throughout the day, Witthuhn said. 

Full-day programs in MMSD, on average, included more students of color and children whose parents did not attend college compared to the half-day programs, according to the Madison Education Partnership study.

The district began its full-day 4K program in fall 2021 and expanded it for this school year, with enrollment growing from 237 in the first year to 417 in the second.

This fall, it will once again grow with five more classrooms at additional schools.

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