Richland sees success with all-day kindergarten program

RICHLAND, Wash. -- KEPR is following up on a Richland school that became the first in the district to offer all-day kindergarten. We learned test scores at Jefferson Elementary are reflecting the extra hours in the classroom.

Michelle Engeler's daughter is in all-day kindergarten at Jefferson Elementary. Hers is the only school in Richland to have it.

At first, Michelle was not crazy about the idea of her daughter taking on a full school day.

"'She's going to be tired, she's going to be exhausted, will it really make a difference?' I was really hesitant," said Michelle.

But nine months later, Michelle says her daughter is a completely different student.

"Just giving her that structure in her day has been phenomenal for her," she said. "It's been a pleasant and wonderful surprise for me."

When school started in the fall, 42 percent of Jefferson kindergartners were at grade level for reading. The biggest improvement in past school years was to bring Jefferson up to 60 percent of kids at grade level. Now that all-day kindergarten is in effect, 92 percent of Jefferson kindergartners can read at grade level.

"Anywhere to 40 or 50 percent of students coming in to 60 or 70 percent when they leave kindergarten, so to hit the 92 mark is incredible," said Jefferson Principal Bobbi Buttars.

Testing also determined 80 percent of Jefferson kindergartners were at or past a first-grade level.

"They're phenomenal and they're unheard of for this area," said Engeler.

The staff says the confidence is written on students' faces.

"They were telling one of our teachers, sounding out a word and, 'Oh my gosh, I can read, oh my gosh, I can read,' and to see the kindergartners' faces when they hit that 'aha' moment,'" said Buttars.

And that 'aha' moment is what mothers like Michelle hope can happen for the rest of the district.

"All it does is give me joy to see how much she loves coming to school," said Michelle.

RSD doesn't have the room at other schools to offer all-day kindergarten for another couple years. Next on the list are Jason Lee and Marcus Whitman.