Full-time kindergarten may not be needed for kids
Government money used to fund full-day kindergarten may be better spent on teacher's aides and other classroom resources, according to a study by researchers from American University and the University of Southern California.
The study analyzed data from a nationally represented sample of 8,540 students to measure the benefits of full-day kindergarten over half-day kindergarten, according to a professor in the School of Public Affairs Alison Jacknowitz, a co-researcher on the study.
Teacher observations and scores from standardized tests were used to determine whether students in full-day kindergarten did better academically and adjusted better socially than their half-day peers. They found that benefits resulting from full-day kindergarten disappeared by the third grade.
"At the end of kindergarten, full-day kids are doing better than half-day kids, but then the others catch up," said USC professor and co-researcher Gary Painter in a press release.
"The biggest thing that surprised me is how quickly the benefits eroded,"Painter said.
The researchers also found that children from low-income families were more likely to display external behavioral problems than other students. Though the study did not aim to find distinct causes for these problems, Jacknowitz said she thinks children from low-income households aren't as prepared for school as their wealthier peers.
"Low-income kids have worse resources at home," Jacknowitz said. "They just aren't as ready for full-day kindergarten."
Full-day kindergarten has gained increased popularity as more women have joined the nine-to-five work force. Under the impression that it will lead to better grades and social relationships, many parents consider full-day kindergarten to be a babysitting service with perks.
"One reason many parents prefer full-day kindergarten is related to a desire or need for the mother to work and the cost of child care," said co-researcher and USC doctoral candidate Jill Cannon in a press release.
While sending the kids to school for the day might allievate parents, Jacknowitz said the funding needed to provide full-day kindergarten could be accomplishing more in other areas. Things like interactive classroom resources and homework help would probably be more beneficial, she said.
Many state governments are currently deciding whether they should make full-day kindergarten a state-wide requirement or put their money elsewhere, and Jacknowitz said she hopes the results of the study will help to direct money to the right place.
The study, titled "Is Full Better than Half? Examining the Longitudinal Effects of Full-Day Kindergarten Attendance," can be found in the spring 2006 edition of the "Journal of Policy Analysis and Management"