Early Childhood

Report Urges States to Clarify Policies, Adjust Aid for Full-Day Kindergarten

By Linda Jacobson — July 12, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

States need to clarify and strengthen their policies on full-day kindergarten in order for youngsters to receive high-quality learning experiences during this critical year, concludes a study released by the Education Commission of the States.

The Denver-based organization’s analysis of kindergarten statutes in all 50 states found that most states lack policies that guarantee access to full-day kindergarten, don’t have rules for how kindergarten programs should be paid for by the state, and don’t have specific standards regarding instructional and teacher quality.

Read the report, “Full-Day Kindergarten: A Study of State Policies in the United States,” from the Education Commission of the States.

States also vary widely on how they define a full day: Some say four hours constitutes a full day, while others require six hours. And most states don’t collect data on which children in their states—based on their race/ethnicity or family income—are attending half-day or full-day programs, the report adds.

While half-day kindergarten has existed for most children since the 1930s, this report comes as more states and local districts are instituting full-day programs as one strategy to help narrow the academic achievement gaps between middle-class and disadvantaged children.

Kristie Kauerz, the early learning program director for ECS and the author of the report, writes that full-day programs also recognize that close to 70 percent of children attend some center-based preschool before kindergarten, and many of those students are used to attending a full-day program before they enter kindergarten.

“Full-day kindergarten provides continuity for children who are accustomed to full-day experiences outside the home as well as continuity with schedules in 1st grade and beyond,” the report says.

Ms. Kauerz also noted that full-day programs have benefits for working parents, such as offering them one place where their children can go while they are at work. Teachers benefit as well, she wrote, because they have “more time for both formal and informal instruction” promoting cognitive development as well physical and social-emotional learning.

Because kindergarten serves as a bridge between early-childhood education programs and the rest of the K-12 education system, learning standards for this grade should be connected to those for both preschool and for 1st grade and beyond, Ms. Kauerz recommends. They should also reflect not just facts and general knowledge, but other areas of a young child’s development, including language and literacy, and physical, motor, and social development, the report says.

Funding Incentives

Even though she recommends that states require local school districts to offer full-day kindergarten, Ms. Kauerz writes that in the absence of these policies, states can encourage districts to expand their kindergarten programs to a full day if certain financial incentives are in place.

For example, a district has an incentive to offer full-day or half-day kindergarten when the per-pupil funding from the state is the same or greater than it is for 1st grade.

But an even stronger incentive exists when the level of funding is greater than it is for 1st grade and more money is provided for full-day than for half-day kindergarten. Seven states—Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, and Wisconsin—offer both these incentives.

Some states, however, create disincentives for local districts by setting per-pupil aid rates that are lower for kindergarten than for 1st grade and by offering the same amount of funding for a full-day program as they would for half-day kindergarten. Nineteen states pay for kindergarten this way, the report shows.

As it is, only nine states actually require that districts offer full-day kindergarten, and only two of those nine require that children attend full-day kindergarten.

Ms. Kauerz recommends that even if states can’t afford to pay for full-day programs for all, they should implement strategies that enable districts to offer full-day classes for certain populations of students, such as those from disadvantaged families or those in schools that are not meeting adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Related Tags:


School & District Management Webinar How Pensions Work: Why It Matters for K-12 Education
Panelists explain the fundamentals of teacher pension finances — how they are paid for, what drives their costs, and their impact on K-12 education.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
Strategies for Incorporating SEL into Curriculum
Empower students to thrive. Learn how to integrate powerful social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies into the classroom.
Content provided by Be GLAD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Early Childhood The State of Teaching Young Kids Are Struggling With Skills Like Listening, Sharing, and Using Scissors
Teachers say basic skills and tasks are more challenging for young students now than they were five years ago.
5 min read
Young girl using scissors in classroom.
E+ / Getty
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Early Childhood Whitepaper
Context is Everything: Reimagining Edtech for Early Learners
This paper aims to discuss the balance between online and hands-on learning as it relates to our youngest learners.
Content provided by Seesaw
Early Childhood Without New Money, Biden Admin. Urges States to Use Existing Funds to Expand Preschool
There's no new infusion of federal funds for preschool, so the Biden administration is pointing out funding sources that are already there.
4 min read
Close cropped photo of a young child putting silver coins in a pink piggy bank.
Early Childhood Preschool Studies Show Lagging Results. Why?
Researchers try to figure out why modern preschool programs are less effective than the landmark projects in the 1960s and 70s.
7 min read
Black female teacher and group of kids coloring during art class at preschool.
iStock / Getty Images Plus