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Has younger kindergarten made the grade in Muskego?

School Board will decide whether to continue K4 program

Dec. 10, 2013

Muskego — The Muskego-Norway School Board on Monday will vote on whether to continue its kindergarten for 4-year-olds, a program that started four years ago amid a fair amount of disagreement.

The board heard a report on the program's first four years last week and called for more information on costs and effectiveness.

Specialized program

The K4 program is a hybrid, with the Muskego-Norway schools partnering with five agencies that offer K4 to district parents who want it.

The programs use a curriculum and testing developed by the school district, but the teachers are employees of the community partners, not the Muskego-Norway schools. However, they are invited to participate in district training and collaboration sessions.

The district has six K4 classrooms running half-day programs, so a total of 12 K4 sessions are being held this year serving 212 children.

The district started the K4 program partly because so many other school districts have it and parents might decide whether to move into the district based on whether there was K4. The other reason was to get more state aid because K4 increases enrollment, which increases state aid.

Cost factor

Except for the first-year start-up cost and for last year when the state aid formula changed, the program has brought in enough additional state aid to cover its expenses, said Superintendent Kelly Thompson.

But having the K4 program has meant the district also could increase the levy more than it otherwise could under the state revenue limits, and that worried School Board member Eric Schroeder.

He called for information about how much the district increased its levy due to its K4 program.

"To me, that's a true gauge of what this program is costing us," Schroeder said.

Mixed effectiveness?

What concerned board member Rick Petfalski was whether the program actually contributes to better academic performance. Data presented tended to show better achievement, but Petfalski said he would like a more precise measure that would involve pre- and post-testing.

That would account in the analysis for children who come into the K4 program already familiar with letters and numbers, he said.

The district provided board members with an overview of results, not all of which were conclusive in terms of K4 effectiveness.

District testing showed that first-graders who had been in K4 tended to read at a higher level than children who had not. The test results showed that 67 percent of children who had been in K4 were reading at the level D of difficulty, which is higher than the 51 percent of first-graders who had not been in K4.

But when educators looked at second-graders, the situation was reversed. More of the students who had not been in K4 read at the desired level. The stats were 85 percent of non-K4 reading at the benchmark level compared with just 78 percent of K4 children.

Being in K4 seemed to help with number knowledge, based on testing in the kindergarten for 5-year-olds. The test showed an average score of 10.6 for children who had been in K4, compared with a somewhat lower 10.2 for non-K4 children.

School Board members will consider those results and the costs in their decision next week on whether to continue the program.

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