ERIC Identifier: ED256474
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Rothenberg, Dianne
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
Full-Day or Half-Day Kindergarten? ERIC Digest.
The majority of five-year-olds in the United States today are more accustomed
to being away from home much of the day, more aware of the world around them,
and more likely to spend much of the day with peers than were children of
previous generations (Herman 1984). These factors, plus the demonstrated ability
of children to cope with a longer day away from home, have created a demand in
many communities for full-day kindergarten programs.
This Digest examines how changing family patterns have affected the
full-day/half-day kindergarten issue, discusses why schools are currently
considering alternative scheduling, and describes the advantages and
disadvantages of each type of program.
CHANGES IN FAMILY PATTERNS
Among the changes that make full-day kindergarten attractive to many families
are the following:
--An increase in the number of working parents. The number of mothers of
children under six who work outside the home increased 34 percent from 1970 to
1980 (Evans and Marken 1983). In 1984, 48 percent of children under six had
mothers in the labor force (The National Commission on Working Women 1985)
--An increase in the number of children with preschool or day care
experience. Since the mid-1970s most children have had some kind of preschool
experience in Head Start, day care, private preschools, or in early childhood
programs in the public schools. These experiences have provided children's first
encounters with daily organized instructional and social activities before
kindergarten (Herman 1984)
--An increase in the influence of television and family mobility. These two
factors have produced 5-year-olds who seem more knowledgeable about their world
and are apparently more ready for a full-day school experience than the children
of previous generations
--Renewed interest in academic preparation for later school success. Even
when both do not work outside the home, parents are interested in the
contribution of early childhood programs (including full-day kindergarten) to
later school success.
SCHOOLS AND FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN
School systems are interested in alternative scheduling partly for the
reasons listed above and partly for reasons related to finances and school space
availability. Among the reasons considered:
--State school funding formulas. Some states provide more state aid for
all-day students, although seldom enough to completely pay the extra costs of
full-day kindergarten programs. Other states allow only half-day state aid.
Funding formulas would have to change in order for these schools to benefit
financially from all-day kindergarten
--Busing and other transportation costs. Eliminating the need for noon bus
trips and crossing guards saves the school system money
--Availability of classroom space and teachers. As school enrollment
declines, many districts have the extra classroom space and enough qualified
teachers to offer full-day kindergarten
In addition, school districts are interested in responding to parents'
requests for full-day kindergarten. In New York City, for example, parents
offered this option were overwhelmingly in favor of the plan, initially creating
waiting lists of thousands of children ("Woes Plague New York's All-Day
ADVANTAGES OF FULL-DAY PROGRAMS
Herman (1984) believes full-day programs provide a relaxed, unhurried school
day with more time for a variety of experiences, for screening and assessment
opportunities, and for quality interaction between adults and students.
While the long-term effects of full-day kindergarten are inconclusive,
Stinard's review of 10 research studies indicates that students taking part in
full-day programs demonstrate strong academic advantages as much as a year later
(1982). Stinard found that full-day students performed as well or better than
half-day students in every study with no significant adverse effects.
A recent longitudinal study of full-day kindergarten in the
Evansville-Vanderberg, Ohio, School District indicates that fourth graders
maintained the academic advantage gained during full-day kindergarten (Humphrey
School districts that have planned a developmentally appropriate,
non-academic curriculum with well-paced activities have reported few problems
with full-day scheduling (Evans 1984; Stinard l982).
DISADVANTAGES OF FULL-DAY PROGRAMS
Critics point out that full-day programs are expensive because they require
additional teaching staff and aides to maintain an acceptable child-adult ratio.
These costs may or may not be offset by transportation savings and, in some
cases, additional state aid.
Other requirements of full-day kindergarten, including the use of more
classroom space, may be difficult to satisfy in districts where kindergarten or
primary grade enrollment is increasing and school buildings have been sold.
In addition to citing added expense and space requirements as problems,
opponents argue that full-day programs may become too academic, concentrating on
basic skills before children are ready. In addition, they are concerned that one
half-day of an all-day program may become merely child care.
ADVANTAGES OF HALF-DAY PROGRAMS
Many educators still prefer half-day, everyday kindergarten. They argue that
a half-day program can provide high quality educational and social experience
for young children while orienting them adequately to school.
Specifically, half-day programs are viewed as providing continuity and
systematic experience with less probability of stress than full-day programs.
Proponents of the half-day approach believe that, given the 5-year-old's
attention span, level of interest, and home ties, a half day offers ample time
in school and allows more time for the young child to play and interact with
adults and other children in less-structured home or child care settings
DISADVANTAGES OF HALF-DAY PROGRAMS
Disadvantages of half-day programs include disrupting children midday to move
them from one program to another and inconveniencing parents who must arrange
transportation if busing is not provided by the school. Even if provided,
schools may find the extra trip expensive. In addition, the half-day
kindergartner may have little opportunity to benefit from activities such as
assemblies or field trips.
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. In general, research suggests that, as
long as the curriculum is developmentally appropriate and intellectually
stimulating, either full- or half-day scheduling can provide an adequate
introduction to school.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Evans, Ellis D., and Dan Marken. LONGITUDINAL FOLLOW-UP COMPARISION OF
CONVENTIONAL AND EXTENDED-DAY PUBLIC SCHOOL KINDERGARTEN PROGRAMS. Seattle, WA:
1983. ED 254 298.
Finkelstein, Judith M. RESULTS OF MIDWESTERN UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS STUDY:
KINDERGARTEN SCHEDULING. Volume I Number 4. Iowa: Price Laboratory School
Research, 1983. ED 248 979.
Grant, W. Vance, and Thomas D. Snyder. DIGEST OF EDUCATION STATISTICS
1983-84. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, 1983.
Herman, Barry E. THE CASE FOR THE ALL-DAY KINDERGARTEN. Fastback 205.
Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, 1984. ED 243 592.
Humphrey, Jack W. A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF FULL-DAY
KINDERGARTEN. Evansville, OH: Evansville-Vanderburgh School District, 1983. ED
National Commission on Working Women. "Working Mothers and Their Families: A
Fact Sheet." WOMEN AT WORK: NEWS ABOUT THE 80% (Winter 1985).
Stinard, Thomas A. SYNOPSIS OF RESEARCH ON KINDERGARTEN SCHEDULING: HALF-DAY,
EVERYDAY; FULL DAY, ALTERNATE DAY; AND FULL DAY, EVERYDAY. Cedar Rapids, IA:
Grant Wood Area Education Agency, 1982. ED 219 151.
"Woes Plague New York's All-Day Kindergartens," NEW YORK TIMES, October 13,
1983, section Y, page 47.