District asks: Does more kindergarten help some students?

HUDSON–How many years of schooling does a child need before first grade in order to master the requirements for entering first grade? Does the answer depend on the child?

These questions are currently relevant to the Hudson City School District (HCSD) because the Middletown Enlarged City School District in Orange County has a two-year kindergarten (2YK) program considered so successful that HCSD officials are studying it to determine whether something similar could benefit HCSD students.

“Hudson is not looking to replicate [Middletown’s] system—just [to] provide more supports for students who are not demonstrating the ability to successfully master the kindergarten program,” Hudson schools Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier said. And any new program would not come to the district this September because of the need to study its implications thoroughly.

Dr. Suttmeier was interviewed by phone about this matter January 31 and by email March 6.

“I’d rather see a child successful in higher grades than be rushed through kindergarten before they are ready,” Dr. Suttmeier continued. “Some children come to us not knowing A from Z.”

“This year we need to gather information. See what we can see about trends. Get data points.” After that, she said, school administrators and teachers can “come together as a group and talk about it.”

Information gathering began with a trip to Middletown in January by Dr. Suttmeier and some teachers. Implementing 2YK would require “communication, communication, and more communication” with parents, she said.

One factor to consider is the differences between Middletown and Hudson. In the 2016-17 school year, according to state data, the Middletown District had 7,195 students, over four times as many as Hudson. That year Middletown designated 13.2% of its students English Language Learners, while Hudson designated only 9.4%.

The racial composition of the two districts differ as well: In Middleton the district is 55% Latino, 16% white, 3% Asian; in Hudson the figures are 15% Latino, 44% white, 12% Asian. African-Americans made up between a fifth and a quarter of the students in both districts. Meanwhile, between two-thirds and three-fourths of each district’s students were classified “economically disadvantaged.”

Another factor to consider is pre-kindergarten. In 2016-17, the number of HCSD students attending pre-kindergarten (half-day plus full day) equaled about a third of the 137 HCSD students in kindergarten.

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