Teachers Advocate Mandatory Kindergarten

State lawmakers are considering a bill that strengthens kindergarten attendance.

But the measure falls short of making kindergarten mandatory in Mississippi. It only says those children who register, must attend.

Many who teach early childhood education say they'd like to see kindergarten required.

"What do we know about the word "said"? It's a red word. It's a red word," said Peggy Broussard as she quizzed her kindergarten kids about words. The children share stories while learning sentences.

Kindergarten involves much more than cookie breaks and nap time.

"Parents are always amazed at how much they've learned in kindergarten. They think it's still play school, but it's not. We have a curriculum. We have objectives. They have report cards. So, we cover a lot of areas," said Broussard.

A late morning lesson in Broussard's class involved the newspaper. Using the newspaper allows the kids to find real examples of the letters and numbers they've been learning about.

Along with reading and math, they're also taught things like cooperation and respect.

"I believe kindergarten is important because it prepares children for first grade, it sets up the attitude they're going to carry with them as they go through school and it's a positive experience for almost every kindergarten student," she said.

Sandra Craft understands the significance of kindergarten, but from a different perspective. Her class benefits directly from kindergarten success.

"Makes the life of a first grade teacher much easier," she admits.

Craft began teaching 30 years ago and remembers early education without kindergarten.

"I have taught long enough that way back when I first started teaching we didn't have kindergarten and we had to spend the first part of the year getting those kindergarten skills down before we could ever start first grade," Craft said.

Such skills are nowadays taught in kindergarten class, better preparing the kids for a lifetime of learning.

Mandatory kindergarten was debated during creation of the Education Reform Act of 1982. Opponents said the idea interfered with parents' decisions about raising their children. The compromise back then was to require school districts to offer kindergarten, but not require children to attend.