Children in full-day kindergarten programs outperform peers in half-day programs in reading and mathematics, but their academic head start begins to fade soon after they leave kindergarten, says a study in the July/August issue of the journal Child Development.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Loyola University in Chicago analyzed data on 13,776 children in a federal study tracking the academic progress of a nationally representative group of children that entered kindergarten in fall 1998. The researchers found that, even though the children starting in full-day programs made faster learning gains in kindergarten, the children in the half-day programs outpaced them from 1st grade to 5th grade. By 3rd grade, both groups performed at about the same levels in reading and math.
Researchers offered a simple explanation for the apparent fade-out of academic gains: The children in the half-day programs, by and large, came from more advantaged households offering more stimulating home environments.
A version of this article appeared in the July 16, 2008 edition of Education Week