ERIC Identifier: ED382410
Publication Date: 1995-05-00
Author: Rothenberg, Dianne
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
Full-Day Kindergarten Programs. ERIC Digest.
Changes in American society and education over the last 20 years have
contributed to the popularity of all-day (every day) kindergarten programs in
many communities (Gullo, 1990). The increase in single parent and dual
employment households, and the fact that most children spend a significant part
of the day away from home, also signal significant changes in American family
life compared to a generation ago. Studies show that parents favor a full-day
program which reduces the number of transitions kindergartners experience in a
typical day (Housden & Kam, 1992; Johnson, 1993). Research also suggests
that many children benefit academically and socially during the primary years
from participation in full-day, compared to half-day, kindergarten programs
(Cryan et al., 1992).
Families who find it difficult to schedule both kindergarten and a child care
program during the day are especially attracted to a full-day program (Housden
& Kam, 1992). In many areas, both public and private preschool programs
offer full-day kindergarten (Lofthouse, 1994). Still, some educators,
policymakers, and parents prefer half-day, everyday kindergarten. They argue
that a half-day program is less expensive and provides an adequate educational
and social experience for young children while orienting them to school,
especially if they have attended preschool. Many districts thus offer both
half-day and full-day kindergarten programs when possible, but the trend is
clearly in the direction of full-day kindergarten.
THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN
Well over 3.3
million children attend kindergarten in the United States, nearly as many
children as attend first grade (Smith et al., 1994, p. 54). In 1993, about 54%
of kindergarten teachers taught full-day classes, and about half of
kindergartners attended full-day programs. Two-thirds of full-day kindergarten
teachers taught in high-poverty areas, while fewer than one-third (29%) taught
in schools with a low incidence of poverty (Heaviside et al., 1993). Teachers of
classes with high minority enrollments were also more likely to teach full-day
classes than were teachers of classes with low minority enrollments (67% versus
43%). State aid for all-day students is often used to fund full-day
kindergarten. One reason for the high ratio of full-day to half-day kindergarten
programs in high-poverty and high-minority schools is that state and federal
funding for at-risk students is often used to supplement all-day funding, since
all-day programs typically require extra classroom space, increased staffing for
special services and programs, and additional classroom kindergarten teachers
(Fromberg, 1992; Housden & Kam, 1992).
Full-day kindergarten is also popular because it eliminates the need to
provide buses and crossing guards at mid-day. A higher proportion of
kindergarten teachers taught full-day classes in rural areas in 1993 (66%) than
in city schools (59%), in towns (53%), or in schools in the urban "fringe" (39%)
(Heaviside et al., 1993).
RESEARCH ON THE EFFECTS OF FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN
studies confirm that attendance in full-day kindergarten results in academic and
social benefits for students, at least in the primary grades (Cryan et al.,
1992; Karweit, 1992). Early studies seemed to offer little reliable evidence one
way or the other because they used small samples or unique populations, failed
to use rigorous standards, or concentrated almost exclusively on academic
outcomes (as opposed to children's attitudes toward school, for example).
Cryan et al. (1992), however, are among the researchers who have found a
broad range of effects, including a positive relationship between participation
in full-day kindergarten and later school performance. After comparing similar
half-day and full-day programs in a statewide longitudinal study, Cryan et al.
found that full-day kindergartners exhibited more independent learning,
classroom involvement, productivity in work with peers, and reflectiveness than
half-day kindergartners. They were also more likely to approach the teacher and
they expressed less withdrawal, anger, shyness, and blaming behavior than
half-day kindergartners. In general, children in full-day programs exhibited
more positive behaviors than did pupils in half-day or alternate-day programs.
Results similar to those of Cryan et al. have been found in other studies
(Holmes and McConnell, 1990; Karweit, 1992). These positive effects and the
academic gains in the first years of school support the value of developmentally
appropriate full-day kindergarten.
CHARACTERISTICS OF EFFECTIVE FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN
Observers of trends in kindergarten scheduling argue that changing
the LENGTH of the kindergarten day begs the underlying issue: creating
developmentally and individually appropriate learning environments for ALL
kindergarten children, regardless of the length of school day (Karweit, 1992;
Full-day kindergarten allows children and teachers time to explore topics in
depth; reduces the ratio of transition time to class time; provides for greater
continuity of day-to-day activities; and provides an environment that favors a
child-centered, developmentally appropriate approach. Recent research indicates
that, compared to children in didactic programs, children in child-centered
kindergarten programs rated their abilities significantly higher, had higher
expectations for success on academic tasks, and were less dependent on adults
for permission and approval (Stipek et al., 1995).
Experts urge teachers, administrators, and parents to resist the temptation
to provide full-day programs that are didactic rather than intellectually
engaging in tone. Seat work, worksheets, and early instruction in reading or
other academic subjects are largely inappropriate in kindergarten. By contrast,
developmentally appropriate, child-centered all-day kindergarten programs:
* integrate new learning with past experiences through project work and
through mixed-ability and mixed-age grouping (Drew & Law, 1990; Katz, 1995)
in an unhurried setting;
* involve children in first-hand experience and informal interaction with
objects, other children, and adults (Housden & Kam, 1992);
* emphasize language development and appropriate preliteracy experiences;
* work with parents to share information about their children, build
understanding of parent and teacher roles, emphasize reading to children in
school and at home, and set the stage for later parent-teacher partnerships;
* offer a balance of small group, large group, and individual activities
*assess students' progress through close teacher observation and systematic
collection and examination of students' work, often using portfolios; and
* develop children's social skills, including conflict resolution strategies.
Recent research supports the effectiveness of
full-day kindergarten programs that are developmentally appropriate, indicating
that they have academic and behavioral benefits for young children. In full-day
programs, less hectic instruction geared to student needs and appropriate
assessment of student progress contribute to the effectiveness of the program.
While these can also be characteristics of high-quality half-day programs, many
children seem to benefit, academically and behaviorally, from all-day
kindergarten. Of course, the length of the school day is only one dimension of
the kindergarten experience. Other important issues include the nature of the
kindergarten curriculum and the quality of teaching.
Cryan, J., R. Sheehan, J. Weichel, and I.G.
Bandy-Hedden. (1992). Success Outcomes of Full-day Kindergarten: More Positive
Behavior and Increased Achievement in the Years After. EARLY CHILDHOOD RESEARCH
QUARTERLY 7(2, June): 187-203. EJ 450 525.
Drew, M., and C. Law. (1990). Making Early Childhood Education Work.
PRINCIPAL 69(5, May): 10-12. EJ 410 163.
Fromberg, D.P. (1992). Implementing the Full-Day Kindergarten. PRINCIPAL
71(5, May): 26-28. EJ 444 288.
Gullo, D. (1990). The Changing Family Context: Implications for the
Development of All-Day Kindergartens. YOUNG CHILDREN 45(4, May): 35-39. EJ 409
110. Heaviside, S., E. Farris, and J. Carpenter. (1993).
PUBLIC SCHOOL KINDERGARTEN TEACHERS' VIEWS ON CHILDREN'S READINESS FOR SCHOOL. CONTRACTOR REPORT. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. ED 364 332.
Holmes, C.T., and B.M. McConnell. (1990). Full-day versus Half-day
Kindergarten: An Experimental Study. Unpublished paper. ED 369 540.
Housden, T., and R. Kam. (1992). FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN: A SUMMARY OF THE
RESEARCH. Carmichael, CA: San Juan Unified School District. ED 345 868.
Johnson, J. (1993). LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT COMPONENT: ALL DAY KINDERGARTEN
PROGRAM 1991-1992. FINAL EVALUATION REPORT. ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
ACT CHAPTER 1. Columbus, OH: Columbus Public Schools, Department of Program
Evaluation. ED 363 406.
Karweit, N. (1992). The Kindergarten Experience. EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 49(6,
Mar): 82-86. EJ 441 182.
Katz, L.G. (1995). TALKS WITH TEACHERS OF YOUNG CHILDREN. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
ED 380 232.
Lofthouse, R.W. (1994). Developing a Tuition-Based, Full-Day Kindergarten.
PRINCIPAL 73(5, May): 24,26. EJ 483 346.
Smith, T., G. Rogers, N. Alsalam, M. Perie, R. Mahoney, and V. Martin.
(1994). THE CONDITION OF EDUCATION, 1994. Washington, DC: National Center for
Educational Statistics. ED 371 491.
Stipek, D., R. Feiler, D. Daniels, and S. Milburn. (1995). Effects of
Different Instructional Approaches on Young Children's Achievement and
Motivation. CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 66(1, Feb): 209-223. EJ 501 879.