ST. PAUL, Minn. - Teachers have high expectations for five and six-year-olds at Richardson Elementary in North St. Paul.
Not only are kindergarteners expected to read and write legible words, but their school day is nearly three times longer than traditional half-day classes.
The North St. Paul - Maplewood - Oakdale district began offering all-day kindergarten at no extra cost to families six years ago, and has tracked the progress of those students.
Principal Jim Miklausich says that the achievement gap has closed at a time when the district has become more economically diverse.
"Not only does it close gaps in kindergarten and first grade, but we've now seen that student achievement has grown all the way up through 5th grade."
He says they have also seen the achievement gap close between all different races, as well as overall achievement rise.
And soon, Minnesota will offer universal all-day kindergarten without charging parents extra for it.
The school funding bill Governor Dayton recently signed into law sets aside 134 million dollars to pay for the program that will launch in 2014.
"This is a great day. It's not only a home run, it's a grand slam!" Sen. Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, said at the bill signing ceremony.
Now that the legislature has solved the money part of it, the next challenge for school districts that want to emulate what they're doing in North St. Paul, is finding the classroom space. That why the state is giving school systems around the state a year to ramp up to this.
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)