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More kindergarten readiness, more all-day kindergarten

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A new study by the Minnesota Department of Education found that Minnesota preschoolers have made impressive gains in their readiness for kindergarten, a key factor in getting a child's schooling off to a good start.

The Pioneer Press reported that more than 7,500 kindergartners from 126 elementary schools around the state were assessed at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year and 73 percent of them were deemed ready for kindergarten. In the same assessment from the previous year, that number was 60 percent.

The survey checked students' physical and social development, language and literacy, mathematics and the arts.

"Students who have access to high quality early learning are more likely to start school fully prepared and then stay on track academically," Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a statement announcing the study's results.

Meanwhile, the Star Tribune reported that registration for the new, free all-day kindergarten that begins next school year is underway or approaching. The newspaper's story looked at districts in the western suburbs of the metro as they prepare to offer the all-day sections, in some cases for the first time.

The Minnesota Legislature appropriated $134 million to pay for all-day kindergarten for the 2014-15 school year.

School officials say a majority of parents are interested in the all-day option. And most districts will no longer provide midday transportation for parents who choose a half-day for their child.

Minnetonka Superintendent Dennis Peterson said half-day kindergarten had previously been considered sufficient to prepare students for first grade but now the state has shifted to educational standards that emphasize all-day programs. Next school year the Minnetonka district will also offer a full-day program for Ready Start Kindergarten, geared for students with summer birthdays who might not be ready for kindergarten.

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