Sheheen’s kindergarten initiative moves ahead

Here’s the Sheheen press release:

Sheheen Bipartisan Leadership Moves 4k Forward for At-Risk Kids


Columbia, SC – Today, Sen. Sheheen’s seven-year-long effort to implement universal 4-year-old kindergarten took yet another step forward as the Senate passed a bill to further expand coverage to all at-risk children in South Carolina.


“Early childhood education is key to improving the quality of education for our students, and I am proud that we’re taking this next important step forward,” said Sen. Sheheen. “We know that the earlier you invest in a child’s education, the better equipped that child is for success and the more bang for the buck the taxpayers get — that’s a recipe for success for South Carolina. We can make great changes for the people of South Carolina, all it takes is leadership and hard work to get things done.”


In a win for bipartisan leadership, Democrats and Republicans supported Sen. Sheheen’s proposal to expand 4-year-old kindergarten once again today. Last year, Senator Sheheen worked across party lines last year to expand pre-kindergarten programs to 17 additional counties around the state, helping an estimated 8,400 more 4-year-olds gain access to kindergarten this year.



And here’s the news story.

This is kind of a big deal. I was sort of surprised it didn’t get bigger play. The paper led with meaningless Kulturkampf “referenda” on the Republican and Democratic primary ballots, and this was relegated to halfway down the page on the Metro front.

Of course, it has a long way to go to become law — and to get funded. So there’s that to justify the paper’s not getting excited…



13 thoughts on “Sheheen’s kindergarten initiative moves ahead

    1. scout

      Nope. It’s oral language development and literacy exposure that doesn’t happen in their homes.

      1. Doug Ross

        Let’s see what the outcomes are. We won’t know for at least a decade whether it makes a difference.

        1. scout

          Many things will be known before then. They may not be things that matter to you when you say “makes a difference”, but still many things will be known. We know right now that 4k makes a difference. We have 4k for a limited number of students in a limited number of districts now, mostly half day; this bill is, among other things, an expansion to full day 4k to all at risk students state wide (assuming there is funding – I went and read the bill; it has that caveat. If funding is limited, districts that get it first are prioritized and layed out in the bill. At risk is defined as family income of 185% of federal poverty level which is same as qualifying for reduced lunch program).

          I have seen first hand the difference it makes from the existing program in my school. We have 2 full day classes of 20 kids each. We are an exception – most schools in my district have 2 half day classes of 20 kids each. We fund full day with title 1 funds because we have over 90% poverty rating, which I think is the highest in our district (it was at one time anyway). Anecdotally speaking, the difference in readiness levels of at risk students entering 5k who did and did not attend 4k are significant. I realize the only data you seem to care about is high school graduation rates, but it does make a difference whether you acknowledge it or not. If I get time, I will work on compiling data from my school specifically as far as percentages of students meeting standard at 3rd grade, readiness level when entering kindergarten, and retentions for at risk students who did and did not attend 4k. I doubt I can get to it today though.

          I was impressed that the bill itself references research supporting the value of 4k to literacy and school readiness. From the intro to the bill:

          ” Whereas, the South Carolina General Assembly finds that national research has documented that students unable to comprehend grade-level text struggle in all their courses; and

          Whereas, the South Carolina General Assembly finds that while reading typically has been assessed through standardized tests beginning in third grade, research has found that many struggling readers reach preschool or kindergarten with low oral language skills and limited print awareness. Once in school, they and other students fail to develop proficiency with decoding or comprehension; and

          Whereas, researchers have linked improved oral language competencies and print awareness in children, especially children in poverty, who had access to high-quality, center-based four-year-old education programs; and

          Whereas, extensive evidence has indicated that high-quality, center-based, four-year-old education programs increase the likelihood of young children’s school readiness and future educational success, particularly for preschoolers who live in poverty; and

          Whereas, the South Carolina General Assembly finds that research has also shown that students who have difficulty comprehending texts struggle academically in their content area courses but seldom receive effective instructional intervention during middle and high school to improve their reading comprehension. These are the students least likely to graduate; and

          Whereas, the South Carolina General Assembly finds that one recent longitudinal study found that students reading below grade level at the end of third grade were six times more likely to leave school without a high school diploma; and

          Whereas, the South Carolina General Assembly finds that reading proficiency is a fundamental life skill vital for the educational and economic success of our citizens and State. In accordance with the ruling of the South Carolina Supreme Court that all students must be given “an opportunity to acquire the ability to read, write, and speak the English language”, the South Carolina General Assembly finds that all students must be given high quality instruction in order to learn to read, comprehend, write, speak, listen, and use language effectively across all content areas; and

          Whereas, to guarantee that all students exhibit these abilities and behaviors, the State of South Carolina must implement a comprehensive and strategic approach to reading proficiency for students in prekindergarten through twelfth grade that begins when each student enters the public school system and continues until he or she graduates. Now, therefore,

          Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina: “

          1. Doug Ross

            There is only one outcome that matters: high school graduation rates. Getting toddlers to point A a little quicker is just the first step in a long process.

            1. Doug Ross

              Really? What are the job prospects and potential life outcomes for a high school dropout compared to someone who graduates? If you can’t complete high school, what are you capable of achieving?

            2. Kathryn Fenner

              Lots of people manage without a high school diploma. The many high school dropouts in our state are not all on assistance. GEDs are possible, for example,, but try functioning at all in our society without being able to read.

  1. Phillip

    It’s not just about getting to point A quicker. It’s about getting to point A earlier—and though that may sound like the same thing, there is an important difference. Stuff sticks better in the brain when learned at that key point in life. Of course it doesn’t negate the importance of consistent, involved parenting throughout the child’s life to maturity (my mother, naturally, interprets this as meaning continuing into the child’s 50s…) but let’s put it this way: a child who gets a better start at age 4 has slightly more chance of amounting to somebody productive in the face of later poor parenting or other adverse socio-economic conditions than a child who doesn’t get that better start and then faces those negative conditions on through their childhood.

    1. scout

      Again I can only offer anecdotal evidence at this point (though I suspect research supports this I just don’t have my hands on the research right now), but from my experience, what Phillip says is very true. I work with students with developmental delays who are 3 and 4. For the same sort of deficit and same relative severity, when I get them at 3, they generally make faster and more progress than when I get them at 4. Young children’s brains are like instruments prime for calibration, and it does stick better in certain stages of development – usually the younger the better. Absolutely every interaction with an adult no matter how mundane to the adult is input that they are using to refine their knowledge and understanding of the world. The more meaningful engaged interactions they have with knowledgeable adults who talk to them with language and have decent vocabularies, the more they will know faster and the more linguistically competent they will be. The piece that is missing in alot of homes is the talking about things while you are doing them with the kids. They learn alot about how things work and from observation and from manipulating objects and observing but unless someone is talking about it too – they don’t know the words that go with that knowledge.

      Anything that increases meaningfully engaged interactions with knowledgeable adults who talk to them about what is happening around them – and does it earlier – is better than babysitting.

      Common Core 5k standards are challenging. Kids with good educated parents who have had quality pre-K and lots of experiences and exposure to things are going to be challenged. So what do you think that means for the kids that would qualify for this program?

      1. Doug Ross

        I don’t dispute that some kids in 4K will benefit. My belief is that many of those who benefit will eventually track back to where they would have without 4K school… because there are too many external factors that will come into play in those environments (parents, peers, the common cultural pressure to NOT succeed).

        Tell me how much this endeavor will cost and tell me what percentage of those who attend 4K will graduate from high school who wouldn’t have otherwise and then we can judge if it’s worth it. In Allendale, 33% of students who enter 9th grade fail to graduate in four years. If 4K kindergarten starts this August, what should the target graduation rate in 2026? If it’s not 80%, then maybe the money spent on 4K would be better spent later on. With a finite number of dollars, someone SHOULD be looking at this from the perspective of where the greatest bang for the buck will result. I’d much rather see more money spent on vocational education than 4K.

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