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Full Day Kindergarten


“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” is a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain. The reports surrounding the existence of full-day kindergarten as a given in the publicly funded K-12 education system in this country are greatly exaggerated as well.

The facts reveal:

  • The provision of full-day kindergarten is required through state law as part of the K-12 educational system in only 12 states†
  • In order for children to remain in a kindergarten program that is considered full-day, some school-districts may require parents pay for half the day, whereas other school districts fully fund the day long program
  • Many classrooms follow the same schedule as first grade, while some create their own schedules; in one program it may be typical for a complete day of teacher-led instruction, while another may have instructional half-days and supplement with enrichment activities to make a full-day.

Recently reported data from the Kansas Department of Education (2010) substantiates that children benefit more from full-day kindergarten than half-day. Significant gains in literacy and language, enhanced social, emotional and behavior development are noted in the Kansas study††. This may be a causal effect since research also suggests that teachers are more effective in full-day kindergarten classrooms. They are more likely to use best practice methods such as incorporating multiple subject hands-on materials; extending play exploration and self instruction; using various group methods; and offering independent transition.†††.

There are three main reasons why it is critical to include full-day kindergarten as we move our country toward education reform:

  1. Full-day kindergarten is consistent with America’s concept of k-12 education.
    Although conceptually most Americans think of our nation’s public school system as k-12, that is far from the reality. Often full-day kindergarten is on the chopping block and subject to changes in local or state policies because so few states have established it as a fundamental part of their education structure and a guaranteed right for all children.
  2. Full-day kindergarten allows all children equal access to meeting kindergarten standards.
    Over 40 states have adopted the K-12 Common Core State Standards that define what students should master by the end of each grade. As long as all children don’t have access to publicly funded, full-day kindergarten there is a fundamental inequity in meeting these standards.
  3. Full-day enables kindergartners to effectively connect learned skills with new knowledge.
    As the research increasingly supports the very early years as the foundation for later learning, kindergarten is no longer seen as the entry point into a young child’s education. Instead it is the necessary “bridge” year, when children connect learned behaviors and skills to newly acquired knowledge and concepts needed to support them throughout their formal education. Full-day kindergarten ensures young children don’t miss a step as they successfully move through school.

Watch this video featuring CDF President Marian Wright Edelman discussing all day kindergarten with the hosts of CBS' "The Talk."

Early Childhood in the States

New York City—Subsidizing Care, Supporting Work

The Center For An Urban Future recently released the report Subsidizing Care, Supporting Work as a part of the policy brief series entitled “Building a Better Bootstrap”. The report discusses the increasing need in New York City for affordable child care. The supply of subsidized child care in New York City, while never adequate, has slipped over the past few years. The city’s working poor have taken the biggest hit, those who earn too much to qualify for subsidized care but too little to comfortably afford the high cost of child care in New York. Today, just one in four low-income children under the age of six is being served by child care programs across the five boroughs. That means that 40,000 parents are waiting for child care services in the city and the report maintains that signs point to continued deterioration unless the city and state change course. Click here to read the entire report.

New York & Ohio—Perspectives on the Impact of Pre-K Expansion; Factors to Consider and Lessons from New York and Ohio

This policy brief, published in January, takes a look at state policies and regulations regarding pre-K expansion that have the potential to positively impact child care quality and access for low-income working families. The brief presents the results of analyses of qualitative data, secondary data, and policy documents and addresses the following questions about factors that potentially impact quality and supply of child care:

  • What state policies and regulations regarding pre-K expansion have the potential to positively impact child care quality and access for low-income working families?
  • What promising practices and lessons have been learned in pre-K expansion efforts that can positively impact child care quality and access for low-income working families?

Read the complete report here.

Early Childhood Resources and News

PreK-3rd: Putting Full-Day Kindergarten in the Middle

This study by Kristie Kauerz presents evidence about the effectiveness of FDK in boosting children's cognitive learning and academic achievement, and makes federal, state, and district policy recommendations for moving FDK from the margins to the middle of the education reform debate.

Sen. Casey Introduces Bill for Early Learning Challenge Fund
Sen. Robert Casey (PA-D) introduced the Supporting State System of Early Care and Education Act (S.470)

The bill directs the Secretary of Education to award competitive, matching Quality Pathways grants to states that demonstrate the greatest progress toward establishing a high quality early learning system. The systems must include criteria outlined in the bill to ensure all components are addressed. The bill also authorizes the Secretary to award competitive Development grants to states that are not awarded a Pathways grant, but commit to develop a high quality system of early learning that includes specific criteria outlined in the bill.

Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke for Early Childhood Education

At the 2011 Annual Awards Dinner of the Citizens Budget Commission, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave a rousing speech that advocated against cuts to education spending. He particularly talked about the benefits of early childhood and the need for continued investments.

Early Childhood Data Collaborative

The Early Childhood Data Collaborative has launched a new website as a resource for states as they develop their early care and education data systems.

Before Birth & Up Through Third Grade

The Early Education Initiative is hosting an online discussion site for anyone who is interested in issues related to improving outcomes for young children from birth through third grade.

† Education Commission of the States (December 2009).StateNotes: Kindergarten. Denver CO: Author. Update provided by K. Kaurez ( Children’s Defense Fund, 2011.
††† Patrick, R., Stuber, G., (2010, November). Using School Readiness Data to Make a Difference in Student Learning Kappan, 92(N3), 35-38

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