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Stonington - The implementation of full-day kindergarten and a new reading curriculum are being credited with a dramatic increase this year in kindergarten reading scores.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools Nikki Gullickson reported to the Board of Education last week that 89.3 percent of students in the full-day kindergarten this year met the state goal for reading compared to 29.6 percent the previous year when there was a half-day program.
In addition, 38.5 percent of the students this year who exceeded the goal were already reaching goals for first-grade students compared to 9.8 percent the year before.
School officials have already begun to see improvement halfway through the school year, when 90 percent of those students had met the goals to that point compared to 65 percent the previous year.
"We're really excited about the results and we're excited to track them through first and second grade to see what the jump start means for them," Gullickson told the board.
She said teachers are now working on ways to continue to challenge the students.
School board members used words such as "amazing" and "awesome" to describe the results at last week's meeting.
Board member Alisa Morrison pointed out that it would be statistically difficult to determine which of the factors - full day classes or the reading curriculum - had a bigger effect on the scores.
"It's an awesome combination," Gullickson said. "We've hit the jackpot here."
Superintendent of Schools Van Riley proposed the full-day kindergarten with just a small increase in the annual budget.
While it was always thought that full-day kindergarten would add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the school budget because of the cost of hiring additional teachers, Riley's plan only resulted in a $75,000 increase for materials, supplies and paraprofessionals. The additional teachers that were needed were transferred from existing staff slightly increasing class sizes in some other grades. No additional classroom space was needed. The school board praised Riley for the creation of all-day kindergarten with a minimal budget increase in his recently completed evaluation.