Recent Research on All-Day Kindergarten. ERIC
by Clark, Patricia
In the fall of 1998, of the 4 million children attending kindergarten
in the United States, 55% were in all-day programs and 45% were in part-day
programs (West, Denton, & Germino-Hausken, 2000, p. v). The growing
number of all-day programs is the result of a number of factors, including
the greater numbers of single-parent and dual-income families in the workforce
who need all-day programming for their young children, as well as the belief
by some that all-day programs better prepare children for school.
Research during the 1970s and 1980s on the effects of all-day kindergarten
yielded mixed results. In a review of research on all-day kindergarten,
Puleo (1988) suggested that much of the early research employed inadequate
methodological standards that resulted in serious problems with internal
and external validity; consequently, the results were conflicting and inconclusive.
Studies conducted in the 1990s also produced mixed results; however, some
important trends appeared. This Digest discusses the academic, social,
and behavioral effects of all-day kindergarten, as well as parents' and
teachers' attitudes and the curriculum in all-day kindergarten classes.
Despite the generally mixed results concerning the effect of all-day
kindergarten on academic achievement in the 1970s and 1980s, consistent
findings appeared concerning the positive effect on academic achievement
for children identified as being at risk (Housden & Kam, 1992; Karweit,
1992; Puleo, 1988). Research reported in the 1990s shows more consistent
positive academic outcomes for all children enrolled in all-day kindergarten
(Cryan, Sheehan, Wiechel, & Bandy-Hedden, 1992; Elicker & Mathur,
1997; Fusaro, 1997; Hough & Bryde, 1996; Koopmans, 1991). Cryan et
al. (1992) conducted a two-phase study that examined the effects of half-day
and all-day kindergarten programs on children's academic and behavioral
success in school. In the first phase of the study, data were collected
on 8,290 children from 27 school districts; the second phase included nearly
6,000 children. The researchers found that participation in all-day kindergarten
was related positively to subsequent school performance. Children who attended
all-day kindergarten scored higher on standardized tests, had fewer grade
retention's, and had fewer Chapter 1 placements.
Hough and Bryde (1996) looked at student achievement data for 511 children
enrolled in half-day and all-day kindergarten programs in 25 classrooms.
Children in the all-day programs scored higher on the achievement test
than those in half-day programs on every item tested.
In a study of the effectiveness of all-day kindergarten for the Newark,
New Jersey, Board of Education, Koopmans (1991) looked at two cohorts of
students: one in its third year of elementary school and the other in its
second year. There were no significant differences in reading comprehension
and math scores on the California Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) for the first
cohort; however, both reading comprehension and math scores were higher
for students in the second cohort who had attended all-day kindergarten.
Elicker and Mathur (1997) also found slightly greater academic progress
in kindergarten and higher levels of first-grade readiness for children
in an all-day kindergarten program. Teachers reported significantly greater
progress for all-day kindergarten children in literacy, math, and general
Finally, in a meta-analysis of 23 studies on all-day kindergarten, Fusaro
(1997) concluded that children who had attended all-day kindergarten achieved
at a higher level than children in half-day kindergarten programs. According
to Fusaro, all-day kindergarten accounted for approximately 60% of the
variance in outcome measures.
SOCIAL AND BEHAVIORAL EFFECTS
Most studies on all-day kindergarten have focused on academic achievement;
however, some researchers have also examined social and behavioral effects.
Cryan et al. (1992) asked teachers to rate half-day and all-day kindergarten
children on 14 dimensions of classroom behavior. According to researchers,
a clear relationship emerged between the kindergarten schedule and children's
behavior. Teachers rated children in all-day kindergarten programs higher
on 9 of the 14 dimensions; there were no significant differences on the
other 5 dimensions. Other researchers who have studied social and behavioral
outcomes found that children in all-day kindergarten programs were engaged
in more child-to-child interactions (Hough & Bryde, 1996) and that
they made significantly greater progress in learning social skills (Elicker
& Mathur, 1997).
ATTITUDES ABOUT ALL-DAY KINDERGARTEN
Recently, researchers have examined parents' and teachers' attitudes
towards all-day kindergarten, as well as considering academic, social,
and behavioral effects. Both parents and teachers whose children were enrolled
in all-day kindergarten were generally satisfied with the programs and
believed that all-day kindergarten better prepared children for first grade
(Hough & Bryde, 1996; Elicker & Mathur, 1997; Housden & Kam,
1992; Towers, 1991). Teachers and parents also indicated a preference for
all-day kindergarten because of the more relaxed atmosphere, more time
for creative activities, and more opportunity for children to develop their
own interests (Elicker & Mathur, 1997).
Parents reported that all-day kindergarten teachers provided suggestions
for home activities more frequently (Hough & Bryde, 1996). They also
felt that the all-day kindergarten schedule benefited their children socially
Teachers surveyed felt that the all-day program provided more time for
individual instruction (Greer-Smith, 1990; Housden & Kam, 1992). They
also indicated that they had more time to get to know their children and
families, thus enabling them to better meet children's needs (Elicker &
CURRICULUM IN ALL-DAY KINDERGARTEN
Researchers who have looked at the types of activities children are
engaged in, how teachers structure time, and how teachers interact with
children during instructional time have found that the greatest percentage
of time in both half-day and all-day kindergarten programs is spent in
teacher-directed, large-group activity (Elicker & Mathur, 1997; Morrow,
Strickland, & Woo, 1998). Elicker and Mathur (1997) note that, although
the average amount of time spent in large-group teacher-directed activity
is greater in all-day classrooms than in half-day classrooms, the percentage
of total time spent in teacher-directed activity was 16% less in all-day
Some studies (Hough & Bryde, 1996; Morrow et al., 1998) found that
all-day kindergarten teachers utilized small-group instruction and provided
for small-group activities more frequently than half-day teachers. Hough
and Bryde also found more individualized instruction in all-day programs,
when compared with half-day programs.
An interesting pattern occurred when Elicker and Mathur (1997) compared
data collected from the first and second years of their study. They noted
that many of the differences in kindergarten programming became stronger
during the second year of implementation. They found that children in the
all-day classrooms in the second year of implementation were "initiating
more learning activity and receiving more one-to-one instruction from their
teachers" (p. 477). Further research in this area is needed to determine
whether, over time, all-day kindergarten teachers restructure the curriculum
to accommodate the increased amount of time available to them and the children
in more developmentally appropriate ways.
There seem to be many positive learning and social/behavioral benefits
for children in all-day kindergarten programs. At the same time, it is
important to remember that what children are doing during the kindergarten
day is more important than the length of the school day. Gullo (1990) and
Olsen and Zigler (1989) warn educators and parents to resist the pressure
to include more didactic academic instruction in all-day kindergarten programs.
They contend that this type of instruction is inappropriate for young children.
An all-day kindergarten program can provide children the opportunity
to spend more time engaged in active, child-initiated, small-group activities.
Teachers in all-day kindergarten classrooms often feel less stressed by
time constraints and may have more time to get to know children and meet
FOR MORE INFORMATION
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