PreK-3rd: Putting Full-Day Kindergarten in the Middle

Kristie Kauerz
Foundation for Child Development
June 2010

This policy brief from the Foundation for Child Development recommends that full-day kindergarten (FDK) be at the forefront of national and state-level education reform efforts. Specifically, it recommends that all states integrate FDK into their education systems regardless of what systems are currently in place – or what costs this might impose – and that states require licensure in early childhood education for all kindergarten teachers, and implement professional development and rigorous assessments to improve the quality of FDK.

Currently, 12 states require districts to provide FDK to all students, though many of these states allow parents to request traditional half-days for their kindergarteners. Fewer than half of states fund full-day kindergarten at the same level as first grade. Ohio will join the list of kindergarten-mandatory states in the 2010-11 school year (however, many districts are seeking to waive this requirement for at least a year, so in practice FDK in Ohio won’t be comprehensive until at least 2012-13). By 2011-12, districts in Ohio will no longer be allowed to charge tuition for full-day kindergarten.

The report touts the necessity of FDK, but offers little compelling evidence as to why universality is necessary. It cites longitudinal research showing that children who participated in full-day programs made gains in early reading skills by the end of the kindergarten year, although most research also shows that such benefits wear off for most children, and tend to be concentrated among disadvantaged students. The brief also names “convenience for working parents” as justification for states implementing FDK, a reason that is flimsy in the face of mounting budget deficits.

Early learning opportunities such as full-day kindergarten (and public preschool) have a hugely important role to play for Ohio’s neediest youngsters – those low-income children who already come to school a step behind their wealthier peers (as the review above illustrates). But this brief does nothing to differentiate between kids who would benefit the most from FDK and those whose current home learning environments are sufficient. Further, there is no mention of cost, or acknowledgement that many states are facing budget crises and simply can’t afford to impose unfunded mandates like FDK on districts. Read the report here.

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