A new study lays out some clear guidance for school districts that are wondering whether to invest scarce funds in preschool or in full-day kindergarten.
The way to maximize the chances of strong 3rd grade reading results is to invest early in preschool programs in combination with full-day kindergarten, according to the report. But if that’s not possible, it concludes, it’s better to go with pre-K and half-day kindergarten than to rely solely on all-day kindergarten.
The report from the National School Boards Association draws its conclusions from a federal database that followed more than 21,000 students from kindergarten through 8th grade. The reading tests given to the children defined five levels of achievement. The researchers found consistently that children who attended preschool and half-day kindergarten were more likely to do better on the reading tests than those who had attended only full-day kindergarten. The benefits were particularly strong for Hispanic and low-income students and those learning English.
Jim Hull, the report’s author and a senior policy analyst at NSBA’s Center for Public Education, writes that his findings confirm the already-established benefits of combining preschool and kindergarten. While he suggests that the results could help district policymakers decide how to invest their resources, he cautions against cutting back full-day kindergarten to half-day. “The emphasis,” he writes in the report, “should be on adding prekindergarten to existing kindergarten programs.”
A version of this article appeared in the November 09, 2011 edition of Education Week as Study Weighs Options for Early Learning