Recent Research on All-Day Kindergarten

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Apr 21, 2014

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. 

Academic Achievement

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 learning skills. 

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. 

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