Full-day preschool programs just got some good news. A new research study found that children who attend full-day programs are more school-ready than those who attend half-day programs.
“This is the first study to comprehensively examine the results of lengthening the preschool day and it has national implications, when only half of students who enter kindergarten each year are fully prepared,” study co-author Arthur Reynolds says in a University of Minnesota news release. Reynolds is a professor at the university’s Institute of Child Development.
According to the news release, “Reynolds says that early childhood education programs have long been known to be key to preparing children for later school success. Now, however, he sees the bigger question to be the effect of increased learning time in early childhood education programs.”
The study — published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association — looked at children in 11 Chicago schools during the 2012-2013 school year. The children were a “nonrandomized, matched-group cohort of predominantly low-income, ethnic minority children.” Of these, 409 were enrolled in the Child-Parent Centers (CPC) for a full, seven-hour day. And 573 were enrolled in part-day programs that ran on average for three hours.
The CPC program provides “comprehensive instruction, family-support, and health services from preschool to third grade,” according to the study abstract.
“We found that about 80 percent of children with full-day preschool were at or above national norms in terms of school readiness, compared with 58 percent of children at a part-day program,” Reynolds said in a HealthDay news article.
“Full-day preschool gave kids a jump on nearly all skill sets equal to an additional three to four months of learning, the researchers found.” And, “The full-day preschoolers also had better attendance and fewer instances of chronic absence…”
Reynolds told Reuters Health that it was surprising to see that “full-day preschoolers performed better in many different domains, including language, math, socio-emotional and physical health.”
“You can go much farther in not only the math side, but language and literacy, reading and drawing and science,” Reynolds told Minnesota Public Radio. He adds, “Certainly there’s a cost associated with increasing the number of schools and communities providing full day preschool, but I think it’s something that really needs to be examined because we’re seeing this linkage to higher levels of kindergarten readiness.”
“There’s a lot of play. There’s a lot of outdoor activities. Children go on field trips, they get choices during the day about what they do and so there’s really a mixing of different kinds of instruction,” Reynolds told ABC’s Eyewitness News.
Another key finding, the university news release says, is that “parents of children attending full-day preschool programs were better able to pursue their own career and educational opportunities…”
“With the full day program, there’s more that I can input in the classroom. There’s more I can teach [the kids] that gets them ready for kindergarten and first grade compared to the half-day program,” preschool teacher Tameka Wells told ABC News.
ABC’s report adds: “The study also states that children likely will not reap the benefits of a full-day program if they go to a low-quality preschool that acts more like a day care center than an educational program.
“‘We don’t have to wait until the elementary grades to increase learning time,’ Reynolds said. ‘By offering full-day preschool, you’re more than doubling the amount of learning time that goes on during the day.’”