SPRINGFIELD - Mandatory kindergarten for five year olds is what State Senator Kimberly Lightford told Chicago Tonight's Phil Ponce she's working towards, and as soon as she gets the state's compuslory school attendance age down to 5, she plans to look into why homeschoolers aren't registered in Illinois.
Lightford, noted as the senator that asked homeschooling moms "how they could stand to be home with their kids 24 hours a day" at a 2011 Senate Education hearing, has filed SB 1307, to be heard in the Senate Education Committee. Lightford's bill would force all 5 year olds to attend school. The state's current compulsory attendance law allows parents oversight to delay formal schooling until age 7.
LIghtford said Monday night on Chicago Tonight children that start school earlier do much better in life, despite latest findings on the failure of Head Start - the federally-funded program for "at risk" preschoolers. The Department of Health and Human Services' latest study showed in December that by third grade, there was no difference in development between children who had been through the federal Head Start program and those children that stayed home with loving mommies, daddies or caretakers.
Those findings raise the question: Is this the best time for financially-strapped Illinois to embark upon mandatory kindergarten?
Heritage Foundation studied the Head Start findings and found billions of federal tax dollars has been wasted on Head Start, despite Senator Lightford's push for Illinois' 5 year olds, accompanied by President Obama's push for universal preschool for 3 year olds. Heritage found:
The third-grade follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study followed students’ performance through the end of third grade. The results shed further light on the ineffectiveness of Head Start. By third grade, Head Start had little to no effect on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting outcomes of participating children.
Impacts on Cognitive Development. For cognitive development, the third-grade study assessed 11 outcomes for the original three- and four-year-old cohorts. Access to Head Start for each group had no statistically measurable effects on all measures of cognitive ability, including numerous measures of reading, language, and math ability.
Impacts on Social-Emotional Development. For social-emotional development, the third-grade study assessed 19 outcomes for each cohort. For measures of parent-reported social-emotional outcomes, access to Head Start for the three-year-old cohort failed to affect four of the five measures. For this cohort, Head Start failed to affect four measures of parental-reported problem behaviors. However, access to Head Start yielded a slight beneficial impact on children in the areas of social skills and positive approaches to learning.
For the four-year-old cohort, access to Head Start failed to affect four of the five parent-reported social-emotional outcomes. For the four-year-old cohort, access to Head Start is associated with a small decrease in aggressive behavior. However, access to Head Start for this cohort failed to affect parental reports of hyperactive, withdrawn, and total problem behaviors. In contrast to the finding for the three-year-old cohort, access to Head Start failed to affect children displaying better social skills and positive approaches to learning.
For third grade, access to Head Start had no statistically measurable effect on the 10 teacher-reported measures of social-emotional development for the three-year-old cohort. However, for the four-year-old cohort, out of 10 measures, access to Head Start is associated with one harmful impact.Teachers reported “strong evidence of an unfavorable impact on the incidence of children’s emotional symptoms.” Access to Head Start for this cohort had no beneficial or harmful impacts on the remaining nine teacher-reported measures.
For child-reported measures of social-emotional outcomes, access to Head Start had no statistically measurable effect on the four outcomes for the three-year-old cohort. On the other hand, access to Head Start for the four-year-old cohort appears to have had one harmful impact—children in the third grade with access to Head Start reported worse peer relations than their counterparts.
Impacts on Child Health Outcomes. For parent-reported child health, the study assessed five third-grade outcomes for each cohort. Access to Head Start had no statistically measurable effect on all five health measures for each cohort, including receipt of dental care, health insurance coverage, and overall child health status being excellent or good.
Impacts on Parenting Outcomes. For parenting outcomes, the third-grade study assessed 10 measures for both cohorts. Access to Head Start had no statistically measurable effect on nine of the 10 measures reported by parents and the two measures reported by teachers for the three-year-old cohort. However, parents of children in the three-year-old cohort with access to Head Start self-reported an improved authoritative parenting style (i.e., high control and high warmth) compared to their counterparts.
Similarly, access to Head Start had no statistically measurable effect on nine of the 10 measures reported by parents and the two measures reported by teachers for the four-year-old cohort. Differing from the three-year-old cohort, parents of children in the four-year-old cohort reported to have spent more time with their children than their counterparts in the control group.
Senator Lightford's SB 1307 has been moved to the Senate Education Committee.