Summary of the newly proposed Sandy Feldman Kindergarten Plus Act 2010


Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) recently introduced S. 3557, the Sandy Feldman Kindergarten Plus Act of 2010. The bill, designed to provide kindergarten-age children below the poverty line with additional time in school during the summer to ensure adequate preparation and support, is one of 3 pieces of education legislation recently proposed by the Senator. See the summary of the bill below.

S. 3557, THE SANDY FELDMAN KINDERGARTEN PLUS ACT OF 2010

Prepared by: Audrey Busch (abusch@wpllc.net)

July 15, 2010

OVERVIEW
As the House and Senate continue to work toward drafting a comprehensive proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), one of the group of “big eight” Democrat and Republican lawmakers that have been meeting to discuss broad principles of such a bill, has forwarded three pieces of education legislation.

On June 30, Senator Dodd introduced The Sandy Feldman Kindergarten Plus Act of 2010 (S. 3557), The No Child Left Behind Reform Act (S. 3558), and The Mentoring America’s Children Act (S. 3559). The title of the second of these might suggest that the bill proposes a major overhaul to current law, although the brief proposal would alter current Adequate Yearly Progress provisions to allow the consideration of growth measures in accountability rubrics, would authorize grants for states and subgrants to Local Education Agencies to increase their capacity for collecting and analyzing data for accountability provisions of current law, and would modify Highly Qualified Teacher provisions to address middle school teacher qualifications, as well as social studies and science teachers at the elementary school level. The other legislative proposals address investments in early childhood education and mentoring programs, issues Senator Dodd has supported for a long time.

SUMMARY OF THE KINDERGARTEN PLUS ACT, S. 3557
Specifically, the Kindergarten Plus Act (S. 3557) is intended to provide “children below 185 percent of the poverty line with additional time in school during the summers before and after the traditional kindergarten school year to ensure more children enter school ready to succeed.” It authorizes $1.5 billion for FY 2011 and a lesser percentage of this initial authorization through FY2016. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

PURPOSE
This bill asserts that kindergarten and the years leading up to kindergarten are critical to prepare children to succeed in school and that these years are most critical for children from low-income families or other at-risk students. Overall, at-risk students lag behind in literacy, numeracy, and social skills before they even enter a classroom. That achievement gap before a child enters school between the highest socioeconomic group and the lowest is alarming, but when at-risk children enter the classroom they learn at the same rate as others. Therefore, targeting at-risk students and providing academic opportunities during the summers before and after kindergarten will help close this gap at an early stage in the child’s learning career.

The US Department of Education (ED) will be appropriated a total amount of $1.5 billion for FY2011 to distribute through a competitive grant process to state and local education agencies. No award can be less than $500,000 and for the first three years of the life of
the program the federal government will shoulder 100 percent of the costs.
The federal share will decrease in subsequent years providing 85 percent of the program for the fourth year and 75 percent for the fifth year. The bill proposes that any non-federal dollars that cover the costs of the program may be in the form of in-kind contributions.

STATE GUIDELINES
All grants would be rewarded on a competitive basis to State education agencies to fund the Kindergarten Plus Program, but if a state is not submitting an application, a local education agency (LEA) is permitted to submit an individual application. If a state is a recipient of these funds, only three percent can be used for administrative purposes and five percent to develop professional development activities and curriculum for the program. The remaining funds are to be awarded as a subgrant to local education agencies. Any state applying for this grant must provide full-day kindergarten to children that fall below the 185-percent poverty line or show they are working towards providing this service and have a plan that must be submitted to ED to prove this effort.

This application must be developed in collaboration with the following: early childhood education programs, principals, pupil services personnel, administrators, Head Start agencies, State prekindergarten program staff, child care providers, teacher organizations, parents, and parent organizations. In addition, the submission should outline developmentally appropriate teaching practices and curriculum that are aligned with standards of learning that will be implemented and used by the LEAs. Also, the length of the school day for the program, how the program will facilitate the needs of full-time working families, and what accommodations will be made for ELLs and children with disabilities should be clear. The state will be responsible for integrating other educational programs such as Even Start, Head Start, Reading First, and Early Reading First. Furthermore, the state would be required to aid the Kindergarten Plus programs in their efforts to provide parent education and activities that include and engage parents’ involvement. This can include training and materials to teach parents how to be their “children’s first teachers at home; or home visiting.”

LEA GUIDELINES
When the LEA submits an application to the state to receive funding for this program, the LEA must demonstrate they would serve a high percentage of kindergarten-age children that are from families with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty line, that kindergarten will be taught in smaller class size than what is average and that there is a low student-to-teacher ratio. An application should be developed using a collaborative process incorporating all stakeholders. Key elements the LEAs should provide include standards and curriculum that improve a child’s development of cognitive abilities, language skills, phonological and phonemic awareness, pre-mathematics and physical development. Additionally, LEAs should develop a plan for parental outreach and engagement. This plan should include methods to provide parent education and activities for involvement that could incorporate home visiting and assistance with teaching how to be “their children’s first teachers at home.” LEAs would be responsible for providing meals, linguistic assistance, health care, transition services, outreach and recruitment activities, extended day services, and child care services.

TEACHER QUALITY AND EVALUATION
All teachers participating in the Kindergarten Plus classroom must qualify as highly-qualified teachers. This would require a participating teacher to have a bachelor’s degree and experience teaching eligible students. Additionally, teachers should be given a salary comparable to what kindergarten-through-third-grade teachers would receive.

The development of an evaluation mechanism would be required and would include collecting data on the number of participants, the number of children with disabilities or who are limited English proficient the program serves, the recruitment and retention of teachers and staff, the services provided for children and families which include parent education and home visits, and the curriculum and professional development used and offered to teachers. This evaluation will be conducted yearly by the state and reported every two years. ED will be required to evaluate the effectiveness of the program every two years and make the results public to Congress and the general public.

COSPONSERS
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Senator John Kerry (D-MA)

CONCLUSION
Washington Partners will continue to monitor this bill’s progress and update you on new developments. Please contact us with any questions.
To view a copy of the bill, visit http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills....
To see information on any of the other bills mentioned that Senator Dodd introduced, visit http://dodd.senate.gov/?q=node/5710

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