The reason children attend kindergarten today is so they can be taught a meaningful and balanced curriculum filled with skills and information. Teachers do this through age-appropriate activities that encourage the children to learn more (Marzollo, 1987). In order for children to develop the necessary skills for success in life, they need to attend kindergarten. In full day kindergarten programs more time is available to develop the necessary social and academic skills children need for success later on (“Full-day and half-day kindergarten in the United States”, 2004). Full day programs have become more and more popular in the past few decades. In the 1970s fewer than 15% of all five-year-olds in the US attended full day programs; in the 1980s it rose to 30% of kindergarten children attending these programs (Votruba-Drzal, Li-Grinning, & Maldonado-Carreno, 2008). In the 1990s it rose to nearly 50%, and by 1993, 54% of kindergarten teachers were teaching at least one full day class (Paciorek, 2002). In 2001, 57% of kindergarten age children were attending a full day program (“Full-day Kindergarten Pays Off”, 2003). Review of the Literature
Arguments for full day Kindergarten programs
Full day kindergarten programs that are taught in a good learning environment tend to offer a better learning foundation for children, and many important characteristics only found in full day programs are not able to fit into a half day program. The extended time full day kindergarten often boosts the opportunities for implementing these unique characteristics of kindergarten in a way not possible in the half day programs (National Education Association, 2006). There is an extreme need for full day programs in some parts of the country. Today in the US, there are an increased number of single-parent homes or homes where both parents work. This makes it necessary for children to be in school all day, instead of just half the day (“Full…Half”, 2004). The advantages that children receive from full day kindergarten extend into the first grade and sometimes beyond. These gains help children academically; enabling them to learn better, which makes them more well-rounded human beings (“Readings”, 2007).
In full day programs, there are more opportunities for children to do in-depth studies and more time for hands-on learning. There is also more stability in full day kindergarten because teachers are given the time to balance large group, small group, or individual instruction. Having this balance has fostered higher learning abilities in children (NEA, 2006). Children in half day programs do not have the same opportunities as children in full day programs because of the time limitations. In half day programs, learning must be done in large groups because there is not enough time to have child-initiated learning. Children need to be given the opportunity to experience how all the different areas of learning are connected and how learning basic skills will help them to understand more complex skills later on in their education (NEA, 2006). Children change in many ways while in kindergarten. They learn to think about the world they are living in, and they also learn to think about themselves (West, Denton, & Reaney, 2000).
In full day kindergarten programs children are taught processes of learning that will help them learn throughout life (DeCicca, 2007). “Full day programs are more likely than half day programs to spend to spend more time every day on letter recognition, letter-sound match, rhyming words, reading aloud, and alphabetizing” (“Full-day Kindergarten Pays Off”, 2003). President of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, Paul Young, says, “If you don’t master certain skills at the kindergarten level, then you can’t be successful in first grade” (Thomas, 2002). In their first year of school children will gain the skills and the knowledge necessary for their success in the future (West, Denton, & Reaney, 2000). The number of children that attend full day kindergarten programs varies depending on the type of school they attend and where the school is located. Overall, 56% of kindergarten-age children in the US attend a full day kindergarten program. About 54% of children who attend public schools are in a full day program, while 67% of children who attend private schools are enrolled in a full day program (“Full…Half”, 2004).
In the US 67% of private schools offer a full day program, while only 57% of public schools do. Catholic schools are more likely to offer full day programs than other private schools, with 78% of Catholic schools offering full day programs and only 63% of other private schools. Fifty-two percent of public schools offer half day programs which is more compared to only 29% of Catholic schools and 40% of other private schools (“Full…Half”, 2004). Some schools offer only full day programs (53%) but fewer offer only half day programs (39%) and 7% of schools offer both full and half day programs. In the US 61% of schools with a kindergarten program offer at least one full day program and 47% offer at least one half day program (“Full…Half”, 2004). The enrollment of children in full day programs varies in different parts of the country. It also varies with the race and economic status of the child’s family. In the US, 60% of kindergarten children are enrolled in full day public or private kindergarten programs. Nine states mandate that a full day program be offered in every school (“Full Day Kindergarten Growing”, 2008). The majority of the children enrolled in full day kindergarten are children of single parents, children whose parents both work outside the home, and children of low-income families (Paciorek, 2002).
The region of the country plays a role in the enrollment of children in full day programs. In the South, 84% of public schools offer full day programs, compared to only 57% in the Midwest, 38% in the West, and 37% in the Northeast (“Full…Half”, 2004). A larger majority of children in the Southern region of the country attend full day kindergarten program (82%) compared to other regions: 47% in the Midwest, 48% in the Northeast, and 31% in the West. Public schools located in the suburban and large town areas are less likely to have children attending a full day program (only 45%) compared to schools located in large and mid-sized cities (59%) or small towns/rural areas (65%) (“Full…Half”, 2004). Parents of kindergarten children put them in these full day programs for many different reasons. One reason is so minority children, or children who are considered “at risk” for failing academically, are given the chance to stay on the same level as their peers.
Full day kindergarten has been shown to considerably close the achievement gaps for minority or low-income children (NEA, 2006). This is especially relevant to gaining the basic skills of learning (West, Denton, & Reaney, 2000). Full day programs also have been shown to significantly improve the math and reading skills of all races (DeCicca, 2007). Children from low-income families have many risk factors they must face that could potentially threaten their health and their development. About one-fifth of US children live in poverty, which has been shown to be a major risk factor for children’s cognitive and academic achievement. Full day kindergarten can put these children on the same level as children who do not live in poverty (Votruba-Drzal, Li-Grinning, & Maldonado-Carreno, 2008). Public schools with at least 75% minority enrollment offer full day kindergarten (76%), compared to public schools with less than 25% minority enrollment (44-48%). In private schools with at least 75% minority enrollment the children are more likely to participate in full day programs (93%) compared to private schools with less than 10% minority enrollment (54%) (“Full…Half”, 2004). Racial characteristics play a role in enrollment in full day programs also.
It has been shown that African American and Hispanic children enrolled in full day programs closed the achievement gap with white and Asian children in the basic math and reading skills, but African American and Hispanic children are not acquiring the more advanced skills at the same rate that white and Asian children acquire in their first year of schooling (West, Denton, & Reaney, 2000). Full day programs have also been shown to create a larger achievement in math and reading for low-income children than children in half day programs (“Readings”, 2007). Also, public schools with at least 50% of their enrollment consisting of low-income children are more likely to offer these full day programs (“Full…Half”, 2004). Children that have completed full day kindergarten programs have been shown to be more prepared for first grade than their peers that attended half day programs. In a study of 22,000 kindergarteners nationwide, students who attended full day programs made larger reading gains than children who attended half day programs (“Full-day Kindergarten Pays Off”, 2003). Children will be better prepared to meet the strict curriculum of first grade if they have attended a full day kindergarten program, because they are used to the full day schedule and they know how their day will go (“Leading”, 2008).
Full day kindergarten programs need to have a “content-centered curriculum for this age group” in order for the program to be successful academically (“Full…Half”, 2004). Many benefits are available to children in full day kindergarten. Studies have shown improvement in full day kindergarten children’s academic skills (Votruba-Drzal, Li-Grinning, & Maldonado-Carreno, 2008). There are many positive academic and social benefits for children of low economic status or disadvantaged backgrounds from attending full day kindergarten. Research that has been done in the past 10 years has shown steady positive academic gains for children enrolled in full day programs. Full day programs offer children a curriculum that is age-appropriate while still providing major academic benefits (Paciorek, 2002). In full day kindergarten there is “greater socialization, generalization of knowledge, transfer of learning, and a deeper understanding of concepts.” This extra time is not only good for the child, but it improves the teacher’s and family’s experience as well (NEA, 2006). In full day kindergarten other gains are made, such as greater growth of reading and math skills over the course of the kindergarten year.
Children who attend full day programs out-perform children who attend half day programs on reading, science, and math achievement tests. Children who attend full day kindergarten also tend to have lower levels of special education and grade repetition (Votruba-Drzal, Li-Grinning, & Maldonado-Carreno, 2008). Children who leave full day kindergarten with better reading skills are more likely to have more success in the first grade and beyond because the material that is taught in early elementary school is usually sequential (DeCicca, 2007). Children enrolled in full day kindergarten programs tend to make greater gains in reading/language arts than children in half day programs over the course of the year (“Full…Half”, 2004). Since the school day is longer for full day kindergarten students, they tend to participate in learning experiences unavailable to half day students. These experiences will help to develop their early literacy skills so that they are more prepared for the first grade. Reading is the most important activity for kindergarten children.
It is required for future success in not only school but in life in general (NEA, 2006). Children enrolled in full day kindergarten have more time to experience literacy. Having this time helps children get a head start on becoming readers and writers (NEA, 2006). Math skills are also improved in full day kindergarten. “Mathematical learning tends to be quite sequential in nature, so if one masters the basic concepts early it is likely that the burden of future learning will be lowered” (DeCicca, 2007). Sometimes the math taught in full day kindergarten is actually that of a first grade curriculum. This helps children get further ahead in their studies and can make them quite successful later on (“Full…Half”, 2004). Science skills are also improved in full day programs. Children have time to take part in science experiments fostering the fact that in order to learn science, one must “do science.”
Because of the extended class time, children are able to take part in more difficult math and science thinking. They are able to move beyond the basic counting and identifying numbers that are normally part of a half day kindergarten program (NEA, 2006). In full day programs, children also have greater opportunity to improve their behavior. Children in full day programs are able to have more child-to-child interactions, and this improves their social skills. In one study of full day kindergarten, there were 14 different dimensions tested. Nine of these dimensions were positive: “originality, independent learning, involvement in classroom activities, productivity with peers, intellectual dependency, failure/anxiety, un-reflectiveness, holding back or withdrawal, and approach to teacher” (Paciorek, 2002). In full day programs teachers are able to take advantage of the extra time. Teachers of full day kindergarten should provide “child-centered, developmentally appropriate activities” and balance small group and large group activities (“Full…Half”, 2004).
Teachers are able to allow more time for children to have free play, rather than large group activities. There is more time for indoor and outdoor play; children can use “learning centers”, and children learn how to cooperate with each other (Paciorek, 2002). In order for children to have a balanced development, play needs to be included in the school day. Children develop many different skills while playing which are necessary for success such as “inductive experience, cognitive dissonance, social interaction, physical experiences, revisiting, and competence”. Play-time has an influence on the intellectual development of children, and it improves learning abilities (NEA, 2006). In full day programs, children scored much higher on achievement tests than children in half day programs on all of the areas that were tested (Paciorek, 2002). There are many advantages to informal testing in kindergarten.
Informal assessments focus on the “developmental and achievement changes in children over time”; it highlights the individual child, rather than the entire group of children. It also offers many opportunities to demonstrate a child’s competence, making the introduction of a tougher curriculum easier. Finally, it helps children understand their learning better, and it provides solid information to share with children’s families (NEA, 2006). Full day programs also create more freedom for teachers. Full day programs are pretty new, so teachers, administrators, and parents are able to create the curriculum themselves. This can be frustrating, but it has many benefits for the children and the teachers (Marzollo, 1987). Many teachers prefer full day programs to half day programs because they are able to instruct children individually. Teachers are also able to get to know their students better. This helps the teachers understand the child’s specific needs to better educate the child. Teachers say there are many advantages to having full day programs. The atmosphere of full day kindergarten is much more relaxed than half day kindergarten, the opportunities for children to develop their own interests are greatly increased, and there is also more time for creative activities (Paciorek, 2002).
Teachers of full day programs are not as rushed to fit the whole curriculum in as half day teachers are. The full day teachers are better able to teach different concepts in many ways to ensure that children fully understand the material (NEA, 2006). Teachers of full day kindergarten are able to get to know the families of their students better than teachers of half day kindergarten. Because of this, they can meet the needs of the students more effectively. The relationships between the teachers and families are also improved with full day kindergarten. The parents are more comfortable communicating with the teachers, because they are able to get to know the teachers better. This also helps the teachers teach better (NEA, 2006). Most parents feel that full day kindergarten has done nothing but good for their children.
Robyn Ann Kreusel says, “I never expected my child to be writing three-sentence paragraphs by the end of kindergarten.” (“Full-day Kindergarten Growing”, 2008). Parents are very satisfied with full day programs, and they believed that their children were better prepared for first grade because of the material they were taught in full day kindergarten. Parents also say their children greatly benefited socially in full day kindergarten (Paciorek, 2002). Today, parents are very interested in their children being able to read at an early age, and a full day kindergarten program is a great way to make this possible (Thomas, 2002). Arguments against full day Kindergarten
In the past few years, many questions have been raised about the necessity of full day kindergarten programs. People want to know how all the extra time is going to be used. Some educators feel that this time will be used for “playtime” or “daycare.” Others feel that first grade material is going to be pushed down into the kindergarten classroom, making kindergarten too academic. People also want to take into consideration how children learn at this age and the purpose of kindergarten in the first place. Some experts say that academics should be increased, and others say the extra time should be spent on activities the students should do on their own (NEA, 2006). Some parents are worried about full day kindergarten programs. They feel that their children will come home after a full day and be tired and cranky. The full day kindergarten curriculum is tough. In this curriculum there are seven different subject areas.
These areas are language arts (which consist of oral language, listening, reading and writing), social studies, science, math, art, music, and physical education (Marzollo, 1987). In a full day program, children have more time to master a curriculum which would normally be more of a first-grade curriculum (“Full-day Kindergarten Growing”, 2008). Children in full-day programs are also on the same schedule as a first-grade class, so teachers are able to work together on subject substance, which makes it easier for the children to transition into first grade the following year (NEA, 2006). People feel this is a problem in some cases. Experts say the worst way a school board could plan a kindergarten curriculum is to move first-grade material down to kindergarten. Some say that children are pressured to teach subjects that are too hard for them to understand. People also feel children are denied the large assortment of activities that normally take place in a kindergarten classroom (Marzollo, 1987). In some school districts 60% of children are not ready to enter the first grade after their first year of kindergarten because they are pressured to learn material too quickly.
Each year, the kindergarten curriculum becomes tougher. Schools now want children to be reading full books on their own by the third grade (Thomas, 2002). Some schools do not provide full day kindergarten programs, but full day programs tend to be found in many Catholic schools. Also, full day programs are very popular in the South, with 84% of public schools offering them It is especially popular in cities rather than small towns, rural areas, and large towns, or suburban areas (“Full…Half”, 2004). Many states whose school districts offer full day kindergarten fund these programs. Twenty-five states and Washington DC provide money to the school districts that offer full-day kindergarten (“Full…Half”, 2004), but many schools in the US do not have the money or the space to offer full day programs to families of kindergarten children (“Full-day Kindergarten Growing”, 2008). Conclusion
Full day kindergarten has many benefits for everyone involved in the programs. It provides many experiences for children that they would not be given if they were enrolled in a half day kindergarten program. Kindergarten is a time of change for children and their parents. Children are able to learn different things in full day programs that they would not have enough time to learn in half day programs. Parents and teachers prefer to have children in full day programs because ultimately it puts the children further ahead and it provides a better opportunity for academic success than the half day programs.
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