Kindergarten enrollment has increased by 1,100

November 25, 1992|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Staff Writer

Enrollment in public school kindergartens across Maryland increased this year by more than 1,100, but state education officials are not certain if the growth was caused by a new law making kindergarten mandatory.

Nancy S. Grasmick, state superintendent of schools, and her top staff briefed a House of Delegates subcommittee yesterday on the plan, which was designed to offer at-risk children a chance to get a head start on learning.

Under the law that took effect July 1, children must attend kindergarten -- either in public school or an accredited private day care center -- before the first grade.

The officials said the law has had "minimal impact," although Mrs. Grasmick was excited that youngsters have a "better prognosis for academic performance" because of the law.

Figures presented to the House Appropriations subcommittee on education and human resources showed that public school kindergarten enrollment increased from 57,658 in fiscal year 1992 to 58,851 in fiscal year 1993.

"But enrollment has been up generally for the last three years, so it is difficult to say if these new figures are reflective of the new law," said JoAnne Carter, chief of the language development and early learning branch of the state Department of Education.

"Next year should give us a better idea," Ms. Carter said.

The impetus for the statute was a Carnegie Foundation study that found that many children without pre-school experience showed a marked inability to begin learning in first grade.

The study reported that 35 percent of students nationally and 31 percent in Maryland enter school "not ready to participate in formal education."

According to teachers surveyed, language deficiencies topped the list of problems that interfere with kindergarten children's ability to learn.

Teachers also cited hunger, child abuse and emotional and health problems as obstacles to learning.

And the continued growing concern, both nationally and in Maryland, is that many so-called at-risk students are so far behind when they enter school that they may never catch up.

Other programs operated by the state Department of Education address needs such as identifying children who are developmentally delayed and others with special needs.

State officials said 507 5-year-olds are meeting the requirement of kindergarten attendance in other recognized pre-school programs.

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