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The effects of full-day versus half-day kindergarten on the achievement of students with low/moderate income status.

Abstract. This portion of a larger comparative study of full day kindergarten (FDK) versus half-day kindergarten (HDK) classrooms highlights the effects of FDK versus HDK on the achievement of students with low/moderate income status. Authors collected statistical and semi-structured interview data from one large and two other school corporations in the midwestern United States. The results of this study did not corroborate with published accounts of FDK students scoring better on certain language arts/reading criteria and mathematics criteria, nor did it indicate a benefit for students from low SES backgrounds. The results of this study indicated that no significant difference exists when the authors directly compared the scores from students recorded as free meal code and students enrolled in Title I schools in either the full-day or half-day kindergarten.

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In many school systems today, controversy exists over what type of kindergarten program should be employed. Kindergartens may be operated by public or private schools, may be academic or developmental in focus, and may be in session for a full-day every day, a half-day every day, or, more rarely, for a full-day part of the week (Karweit, 1993). The traditional purpose of kindergarten was to begin the transition from home to school. Students were expected to learn how to count to 20, recite the alphabet, recognize shapes and colors, and print their names. Program objectives included socialization, aesthetics, sensory-motor development, developing a positive attitude towards school, and general readiness (Humphrey, 1990; Nelson, 2000). Now, students must exhibit reading readiness skills, understand basic math concepts, and demonstrate advanced social skills. They must control their natural impulses to play, be prepared to work for sustained periods of time, have enough fine motor control to complete workbook sheets and dittos, and listen carefully (Nelson, 2000).

With this in mind, we ask the following questions. In terms of structure and time, is a half-day morning or afternoon kindergarten program better or worse for students than a full-day program? And, specifically, which program is best for students with a low- to moderate-income family status?

Previous Research

The research findings comparing every day full-day and half-day kindergartens are complex (Clark & Kirk, 2000; Fusaro, 1997; Ohio State Legislative Office of Education, 1997). Some studies indicate that on some academic and/or social achievement measures, an every day full-day kindergarten schedule may offer little or no statistically significant advantage over a half-day program (Holmes & McConnell, 1990; Karweit, 1992, 1993; Ohio State Legislative Office of Education, 1997). While some of these and other research studies and reports offer conflicting findings, many still contend that full-day kindergartens should be implemented for other "intangible" reasons (Clark, 2001; Clark & Kirk, 2000; De Costa & Bell, 2000; Fromberg, 1992; Harrison-McEachern, 1989; Hough & Bryde, 1996; Housden & Kam, 1992; Koopmans, 1991; Lofthouse, 1994; Lore, 1992; Nelson, 2000; Rothenberg, 1995; Towers, 1991; Vecchiotti, 2003). These reasons, whether intangible or explicit, include:

* Greater utilization of time and small group acticities by full-day programs (Clark & Kirk, 2000; De Costa & Bell, 2000; Fromberg, 1992; Harrison-McEachern, 1989; Hough & Bryde, 1996; Housden & Kam, 1992; Humphrey, 1990; Rothenberg, 1995).

* No significant difference in the amount of fatigue experienced by full-day and half-day students (Hough & Bryde, 1996).

* Full-day students benefit both socially and behaviorally from increased teacher-to-student and peer-to-peer interactions (Clark & Kirk, 2000; De Costa & Bell, 2000; Hough & Bryde, 1996; Housden & Kam, 1992; Rothenberg, 1995; Towers, 1991).

* Full-day students perform better on certain language arts/reading criteria (De Costa & Bell, 2000; Entwisle & Alexander, 1998; Gullo, 2000; Harrison-McEachern, 1989; Hough & Bryde, 1996; Koopmans, 1991; Larson, 2003; Lore, 1992).

* Full-day students perform better on certain mathematics criteria (Entwisle & Alexander, 1998; Gullo, 2000; Hough & Bryde, 1996; Koopmans, 1991; Larson, 2003).

* Parents and/or teachers are equally or more satisfied with a full-day program (Clark & Kirk, 2000; De Costa & Bell, 2000; Hough & Bryde, 1996; Housden & Kam, 1992; Ohio State Legislative Office of Education, 1997; Rothenberg, 1995; Towers, 1991).

* School attendance is as good or better for full-day students (Clark & Kirk, 2000; Gullo, 2000; Hough & Bryde, 1996).

* Full-day programs benefit students from low socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds (Clark & Kirk, 2000; De Costa & Bell, 2000; Housden & Kam, 1992; Larson, 2003; Nelson, 2000; Ohio State Legislative Office of Education, 1997).

* Full-day programs benefit students from minority groups (Koopmans, 1991).

* Single- or dual-parent families in which both work during the day favor full-day programs (Clark & Kirk, 2000; Humphrey, 1990; Lofthouse, 1994; Towers, 1991).

* A full-day program does not harm students or cause burnout (Humphrey, 1990; Koopmans, 1991).

Methodology

This paper is a part of a complete comparative study of full-day kindergarten versus half-day kindergarten for three midwestern school districts in the United States. The comparative study was written as a report comparing full-day versus half-day kindergarten for the school districts. The comparative study was a result of the authors collecting quantitative data in the form of scores on a state achievement test (ISTEP+) and qualitative data in the form of semi-structured interviews with Title I FDK teachers. A variety of data was collected and analyzed, including cross-referencing full-day versus half-day data with demographic information. This paper focuses upon the demographic data involving socioeconomic status.

ISTEP+ Scores

Statistical analysis was completed for the school corporation where the 3rd-grade (ISTEP+) scores were obtained. Third grade was the first year after kindergarten that the state-mandated administration of a standardized test. Authors collected and analyzed ISTEP+ scores for third-grade students who were previously enrolled in either a FDK or a HDK in that district. Comparisons focused on the results of the ISTEP+ in language arts and mathematics. Language arts ISTEP+ scores were recorded for 1,963 third-grade students. Mathematics ISTEP+ scores were recorded for 1,978 3rd-grade students. Student demographic data, including gender, ethnicity, and meal codes (indicator of socioeconomic status), were used to sort the comparable data. Authors ran statistical tests to investigate the comparison between FDK and HDK.

Semi-structured Interviews

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 Title I FDK classroom teachers across three midwestern U.S. school corporations, one being where the ISTEP+ scores were made available. With a semi-structured interview strategy, the interviewer could follow up a set of predetermined descriptive questions, each designed to elicit an extensive response based on the interviewee's expert knowledge of the topic, with probing questions that could be used to either clarify an answer or prompt the interviewee to continue. The descriptive questions were developed by the authors during an extensive literature review of FDK and HDK, with the explicit purpose of gathering qualitative data that addressed Title I FDK teacher perceptions related to the benefits and detriments of FDK in their respective contexts.

The semi-structured interviews were scheduled through the central administration office of each respective school corporation, which in one case asked the second author to speak directly to building principals. The school corporations were selected based on having active Title I FDK programs, and due to relative proximity to the authors' respective universities. In an effort to conduct meaningful interviews, each interview was held face to face during the interviewee's preparation period or after school on the same day in which the author observed the teacher in the classroom. The author always spent a half-day or more observing the teachers in their respective classrooms before conducting an interview. When agreed to by the teacher, the interviews were recorded and later transcribed. Of the 14 teachers interviewed, eight had previous experience teaching in HDK programs and either moved into a FDK program or experienced having a HDK program transition into a FDK program. The authors analyzed the qualitative data gathered by using coding to look for emerging themes and patterns (Miles & Huberman, 1994).

Results

Full-day Versus Half-day

Looking first at the students as a whole, out of the total 3,032 students, 34.5 percent were enrolled in the full-day kindergarten program and 65.5 percent were enrolled in the half-day kindergarten program (either in morning or afternoon). All FDK school sites were Title I schools.

According to the Mann-Whitney nonparametric test, those 3rd-grade students previously enrolled in the full-day kindergarten program scored significantly (p<0.001) lower on the language arts portion than students previously enrolled in the half-day program. No significant difference was found in the mathematics portion of the test.

Interesting results arise when looking into the morning and afternoon programs as separate statistics. Third-grade students previously enrolled in the morning kindergarten program scored significantly (p<0.001) higher on the language arts portion of the test than students previously enrolled in the full-day program. Third-grade students previously enrolled in the morning program also scored significantly (p<0.05) higher on the mathematics portion of the test than students in the full-day program.

No significant differences were found in the language arts portion or the mathematics portion when comparing students enrolled in the afternoon program versus the full-day program. Significant differences were found only in language arts scores for the comparison of morning program students to afternoon program students. Third-grade students previously enrolled in the morning program scored significantly (p<0.01) higher than students previously enrolled in the afternoon program.

Although the Mann-Whitney test requires the use of the ISTEP+ score averages, administrators and faculty may be more interested in comparisons made between students who passed the test with those who did not pass the test.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Socioeconomic Status

Turning now from looking at the students as a whole to focusing on the students according to income status gives a unique picture. Meal codes (paid, reduced, free) were recorded for students and used as the indicator of the students' socioeconomic status. Status assumptions were made and defined as the following: paid meal code was average- to high-income status and reduced and free meal codes were moderate- to low-income status.

Fifty-four percent of the full-day kindergarten students are recorded as free meal code; 37 percent are recorded as paid meal code. Fifty-six percent of the half-day kindergarten students are recorded as paid meal code (59 percent of morning and 52 percent of afternoon); 35 percent are recorded as free meal code.

Non-parametric tests were performed on the meal code data regarding the ISTEP+ scores for both the language arts and mathematics portions. According to the Mann-Whitney test, students recorded as paid meal code scored significantly (p<0.001) higher than those students recorded as free meal code in both the language arts and mathematics portions of the ISTEP+.

With significant differences in the language arts portion with regards to kindergarten program type and significant differences in the language arts with regards to the meal code data, the data were filtered to focus only on the students recorded as free meal code. This focus helps to answer the question as to whether the full-day program or half-day program is better for this group of students. The language arts scores for this group were normally distributed so parametric comparisons were made.

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

According to the t-test, there was no significant (p<0.226) difference between the mean scores of 3rd-grade students with free meal code status previously enrolled in full-day or half-day programs for the language arts portion of the ISTEP+.

Non-parametric tests also were performed to analyze any differences between 3rd-grade students with free and paid meal code status participating in either of the three kindergarten program types. No significant differences were found in any combination for the language arts or mathematics portions of the ISTEP+.

Since significance was found in both language arts and mathematics with regard to meal code when focusing on full-day and half-day status and a large portion of lower SES students are found in Title I schools, the data were filtered to focus upon only Title I school students in regards to their full-day and half-day status and their scores on both the language arts and mathematics achievement test. According to the Mann-Whitney test, statistics showed no significant difference between either the language arts or mathematics scores comparing Title I full-day to Title I half-day students.

Semi-structured Interview Results

Teacher comments generally paralleled the benefits of FDK programs as listed above from other published studies, and the teachers overwhelmingly spoke to the strength of a FDK program over a HDK program. The main reasons why the teachers of the Title I FDK programs preferred FDK over HDK were: 1) more time with the children to work on academics, including more hands-on activities; 2) more time to have children complete "specials" or programs considered complementary to the core curriculum, such as science, social studies, and field trips; 3) additional opportunities to work one-on-one with the children; and 4) additional time to address and cover the required state standards for kindergarten.

However, while time was consistently thought to be an added benefit of a FDK program over a HDK program, several of the teachers interviewed qualified their statements, placing them in the context of meeting state standards. For example, one teacher nearing retirement commented, "Well, it used to be that we were concerned about getting children into social situations that prepared them for 1st grade. HDK was perfect for that. But today we have a number of standards that need to be covered. If we are going to be held accountable for having the children meet all the various kindergarten standards, then we need more time to do that." Another veteran teacher who ultimately supported FDK for the above reason also placed a qualifier on her statement concerning perceived societal expectations for children today. "Well actually, I think it was better [in the past] when we let children be children and didn't push them into academics so quickly. But I think it's good that children are learning so much in kindergarten now as well. Both approaches have benefits. Yet, if we are to have the children leave kindergarten haying met all the state standards, then we definitely need the longer day in FDK to work with them."

The teachers who had taught HDK previously and transitioned to FDK were especially cognizant of the need to have more time with the children who were behind academically and required more one-on-one assistance. "When I taught HDK it seemed that the school day was over before I had a chance to work individually with children who needed extra assistance. Once we covered the required curriculum, it was time to get the kids ready to go back home." Many of the teachers also stated that they were able to cover more curricula, and cover it more thoroughly, in FDK than they could in a HDK setting. "I am able to cover much more material and cover it better now that I have the children for a longer period of time." "I am grateful to have the children for a longer period of time. With all of the standards [to cover], it simply makes sense that I have my class for a longer period of time. Without that extra time it would be very difficult to get some of my students ready for 1st grade." Thus, the need to have the children meet the kindergarten standards is clearly affecting the curriculum, and the teachers feel that the additional time with the children that a FDK program provides is necessary for the content standards to be appropriately addressed.

Discussion

A review of the literature raised three interesting findings that could be compared with the results indicated in this study: 1) full-day students perform better on certain language arts/reading criteria (De Costa & Bell, 2000; Entwisle & Alexander, 1998; Gullo, 2000; Harrison-McEachern, 1989; Hough & Bryde, 1996; Koopmans, 1991; Larson, 2003; Lore, 1992); 2) full-day students perform better on certain mathematics criteria (Entwisle & Alexander, 1998; Gullo, 2000; Hough & Bryde, 1996; Koopmans, 1991; Larson, 2003); and 3) full-day programs benefit students from low SES backgrounds (Clark & Kirk, 2000; De Costa & Bell, 2000; Housden & Kam, 1992; Larson, 2003; Nelson, 2000; Ohio State Legislative Office of Education, 1997).

The results of this study did not corroborate findings that full-day students score better on certain language arts/reading criteria. Full-day students scored significantly lower than half-day students as a whole. The findings also do not agree with published accounts of full-day students scoring better on certain mathematics criteria. No statistically significant difference was found to exist between students enrolled in the full-day program compared to those in half-day. Using meal code data as a measure of SES, the largest portions of students from a low SES background were found in the full-day program, and all FDKs are located in Title I schools. Although some published accounts report that full-day programs benefit students from low SES backgrounds, the results of this study indicate that no significant difference exists when the scores from students recorded as free meal code and students enrolled in Title I schools in either the full-day or half-day kindergarten are directly compared.

However, this discussion needs to address the findings that when students recorded as free meal code were compared with students recorded as paid meal code for all combinations of full-day, half-day, morning, or afternoon, no differences were found. Keeping in mind that the scores utilized in the statistics were recorded at the 3rd-grade level, no statistical differences indicate that the full-day program may have benefited the students with a low SES background. The students with a low SES background are not behind; they are doing just as well as the students with higher SES status as recorded by their ISTEP+ scores in 3rd grade. This positive outcome of the FDK program corroborates with the research indicating that FDK programs benefit students from low SES backgrounds.

Interviews with 14 Title I FDK classroom teachers also highlighted the potential strengths of a FDK program over a HDK program, including more time for students to work on academics and special programs. Implications for educational practice that emerged from this study indicated that teaching in a FDK setting allowed for the teachers to: 1) address state standards efficiently, 2) spend more one-on-one time with individual students who need additional academic assistance, and 3) create opportunities for students to use manipulatives and complete meaningful hands-on, minds-on activities. This would account for the academic benefits.

When looking at these academic outcomes as a whole, however, the larger question does not appear to be whether or not a FDK program benefits low/moderate SES students, as other published research corroborated with interview findings conducted here demonstrate that the students do receive many benefits from the additional time in the classroom. However, are these benefits short-lived? Some research indicates that benefits dissipate by 2nd grade (Karweit, 1992: Koopmans, 1991; Ohio State Legislative Office of Education, 1997). The 3rd-grade achievement test scores we used proved to not validate this research. Academic benefits for students with a low SES background do continue at least to 3rd grade. The bigger question appears to be whether these benefits will continue through subsequent grades. Further studies need to be conducted to determine how academic success may be maintained as these students continue through school.

Other research endeavors should seek to answer such questions as: Will extra academic time for students in a FDK program also contribute to social and emotional growth that is sustaining into 3rd grade and beyond? What effect on academic success do curriculum and instructional strategies play in FDK programs, or is the time involved the major factor? Is FDK success dependent upon the time allotted for academics, specifically language arts and mathematics, and/or the time of day when these curricula are taught?

References

Clark, P. (2001). Recent research on all clay kindergarten. ERIC digest. Retrieved September 7, 2004, from www.ericfacility.net/databases/ ERIC Digests/ed453982.html.

Clark, P., & Kirk, E. (2000). All-day kindergarten. Childhood Education, 76, 228-231.

De Costa, J. L., & Bell, S. (2000, April). Full day kindergarten at an inner city elementary school. Perceived and actual effects. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA. Elementary and Childhood Education (PS028498). Alberta, Canada.

Entwisle, D. R., & Alexander, K. L. (1998). Facilitating the transition to first grade: The nature of transition and research on factors affecting it. Elementary School Journal, 98(4), 351-364.

Fusaro, J. A. (1997). The effect of full-day kindergarten on student achievement: A meta-analysis. Child Study Journal, 27(4), 269-280.

Fromberg, D. P. (1992). Implementing the full-day kindergarten. Principal, 71(5), 26-28.

Gullo, D. (2000). The long-term educational effects of half-day versus full-day kindergarten. Early Child Development and Care, 160, 17-24.

Harrison-McEachern, R. (1989). Half-day kindergarten versus all-day kindergarten and its effects on first-grade reading achievement. Master's Thesis, Kean College, Newark, NJ, U.S. Reading and Communication Skills (CS009877). New Jersey, U.S.

Holmes, C. T., & McConnell, B. M. (1990, April). Full-day versus half-day kindergarten: An experimental study. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Boston, MA. Elementary and Childhood Education (PS022301). Georgia, U.S.

Hough, D., & Bryde, S. (1996, April). The effects of full-day kindergarten on student achievement and affect. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the American Educational Research Association, New York, NY. Elementary and Childhood Education (PS024258). Missouri, U.S.

Housden, T., & Kam, R. (1992). Full-day kindergarten: A summary of the research. Carmichael, CA: San Juan Unified School District. (CIQ78525). Elementary and Childhood Education (PS020580). California, U.S.

Humphrey, J. W. (1990). Feasibility study concerning mandatory half-day kindergarten and mandatory and voluntary full-day kindergarten. Indianapolis, IN: Indiana State Department of Education. (BBB23802). Elementary and Childhood Education (PS018934). Indiana, U.S.

Karweit, N. (1992). The kindergarten experience. Educational Leadership, 49(6), 82-86.

Karweit, N. (1993). Effective preschool and kindergarten programs for students at risk. In B. Spodek (Ed.), Handbook of research on the education of young children (pp. 385-412). New York: Macmillan.

Koopmans, M. (1991). A study of the longitudinal effects of all-day kindergarten attendance on achievement. Newark, NJ: Board of Education, Office of Research, Evaluation and Testing.

Larson, J. C. (2003). Reducing the school performance gap among socioeconomically diverse schools: Comparing full-day and half-day kindergarten programs. Retrieved August 24, 2004, from www.ecs.org/html/ IssueSection,aso?issueid=77&s=Selkected+ Research+%26+Readings.

Lofthouse, R. W. (1994). The "nuts and bolts" of starting a tuition-based, full-day kindergarten. Education Digest, 60(3), 54-56.

Lore, R. (1992). Language development component: Full day kindergarten program. Columbus, OH: Columbus Public Schools. (BBB28526). Elementary and Childhood Education (PS020449). Ohio, U.S.

Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Nelson, R. F. (2000). Which is the best kindergarten? Principal, 79(5), 38-41.

Ohio State Legislative Office of Education. (1997). An overview of full-day kindergarten. Columbus, OH: Author. (BBB28080). Elementary and Childhood Education (PS025445). Ohio, U.S.

Rothenberg, D. (1995). Full-day kindergarten programs. Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement. (EDD00036). Elementary and Childhood Education (PS023372). Illinois, U.S.

Towers, J. M. (1991). Attitudes toward the all-day, everyday kindergarten. Children Today, 20(1), 25-27.

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Julie Saam

Indiana University Kokomo

Jeffrey A. Nowak

Indiana University--Purdue University fort Wayne

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Julie Saam, Division of Education, Indiana University Kokomo, 2300 South Washington Street, Kokomo, IN 46904. Email: jsaam@iuk.edu
Table 1
Frequency and Percentage of 3rd-grade Students Previously
Enrolled in Each Kindergarten Program Type

Program Frequency Percent

KA 1095 36.1
KF 1046 34.5
KP 891 29.4

Total 3032 100.0

Note. KA = AM Program; KP = PM Program; KF = Full-day Program

Table 2
Meal Code Distribution

Meal Code Frequency Percent

Paid 1,044 34.4
Reduced 192 6.3
Free 893 29.5
Missing 903 29.8

Total 3,032 100.0

Table 3
Language Arts and Mathematics Means According to Program
Type for Students in the Free Lunch Program

 Language Arts Mathematics

Program Mean N Mean N

KA 463 212 477 213
KF 459 339 482 338
KP 457 195 476 206

Total 460 746 479 757

Note. KA = AM Program; KP = PM Program; KF = Full-day Program

Table 4
Language Arts and Mathematics Means According to Program Type for
Students in the Paid Lunch Program

 Language Arts Mathematics

Program Mean N Mean N

KA 512 417 527 418
KF 508 260 531 260
KP 504 296 526 299

Total 508 973 528 977

Note. KA = AM Program; KP = PM Program; KF = Full-day Program
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Author:Nowak, Jeffrey A.
Publication:Journal of Research in Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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