Currently, a bill requiring all schools to offer at least one full-day kindergarten class was vetoed. The bill highlighted the importance of having more time to teach and learn (Stavely). According to the article, at present, full-day kindergarten is offered in low-income communities and most half-day kindergarten in higher-income communities. Budget constraints and having enough classroom availability seem to be factors contributing to the outcome of full-day kindergarten. Advocates of full-day suggest the advantages of a longer kindergarten day to be more opportunities for assessment, individualized instruction, broader learning experiences, in-depth curriculum, closer teacher-parent relationships, and benefits for the working parents (Lee et al. 169). This is to say that a longer day of instruction can positively affect children’s development. The article goes on to explain the research comparing full-day to half-day kindergarten. Research findings suggest that the effectiveness of full-day kindergarten is prevalent for socially and educationally disadvantaged children (175). While some findings showed long-term benefits of full-day kindergarten, such as in regards to academics, others did not entirely diminish the effectiveness of half-day kindergarten. It is possible to make a difference in creating an effective schooling experience by expanding half-day to full-day.According to Towers, full-day kindergarten teachers found the program was more developmentally appropriate for children (25-28). Having more time allowed for more activities that focused on language development, social, and dramatic play, whereas half-day program spent most of the time on math and reading. Additionally, a full-day program helps prepare students “socially, emotionally, and academically” for full days in first grade and beyond (25-28). I think that students coming from attending preschool full-day will have the experience of a curriculum that fosters all areas of development. In that sense, entering a full-day kindergarten program helps build on what they are already familiar with, but in an in-depth way and includes a new academic focus.
A school in Pasco, Washington modified their half-day program to a full-day alternate-day schedule. With this change, teachers reported being able to teach concepts and provide reinforcement activities, as well as having more relaxed days without the inconvenience of removing activities for the morning and afternoon groups because of time constraints (McConnell & Tesch 48). I find this modification a good alternative for communities already implementing half-day kindergarten. A trial of full-day alternate-day kindergarten could benefit many children and their families. The article goes on the present that data showed that students in the full-day alternate-day program “adjusted to school as well as or slightly better” than those in the half-day program (50). From my experience in a full-day kindergarten, I find that it is much more beneficial for the students because there is enough time to cover many topics. Also, it allows for more flexibility for the teachers in the curriculum they are teaching and what the students are interested in learning about.
Much of the preference for full-day kindergarten involves the long-term achievements children can attain academically. The students in a full-day program can learn more through their experiences than the students in a half-day program, but it is possible that by first grade the benefits achieved from a full-day program can diminish (Wolgemuth et al. 267). The article goes on to discuss the concern around short-lived effects and how a full-day kindergarten is related positively to school performance, at least until first grade. Taking into consideration the decline of the long-term effects of full-day kindergarten, teachers should provide differentiated instruction to their students as a means to advance each individual as far as possible (268). A study suggested that the advantages of full-day versus part-day kindergarten fade out at around 36 months after the spring of kindergarten assessment (Votruba-Drzal et al. 957-978). This article also focuses on how the academic benefits of full-day kindergarten subside after the children leave kindergarten.
When looking at full-day and half-day kindergarten, I think it is important to note that a child can have a positive learning experience in either program. Early childhood education prepares children for an elementary school education where there is an increased focus on academics. A child’s individual experience sets the foundation for their learning. That can play a part in the choice between full-day or half-day kindergarten. It would be beneficial if the kindergarten teacher could build from what the children coming from preschool already know and help those who are having their first educational experience. The academic benefits of an extended day and all the other advantages should be available to all communities, regardless of their income. Policies on full-day kindergarten should make it available to all children and it should be given priority for funding. All children are deserving of having a high-quality full-day kindergarten experience with a curriculum that addresses all areas of child development.