Sunday, April 27, 2008

Can the benefits of All-Day K be proven?

A reader asked me to reference the studies that explain "WHY" all-day kindergarten is better. The "WHY" is shown in those studies that advocate for it. More time on task allows for deeper understanding. More practice time leads to better mastery. More time allows more ground to be covered.

In short, some studies suggest students learn more, and learn it faster.

I think what he was really looking for was the study that proved without a doubt that all-day kindergarten is best. Such a study does not exist. Some will point to positive results, but none of the studies will declare it "best" in such absolute terms.

The reader suggests that all-day kindergarten is nothing more than "cheap childcare for working parents." Perhaps in his district -- and in some other districts for that matter -- it might be.

But a failure to develop a robust all-day kindergarten curriculum in some districts does not mean that the all-day kindergarten lacks merit. Not all districts are irresponsible or ineffective.

Furthermore, I've said repeatedly that all-day kindergarten needs to be part of an overhaul of the subsequent elementary curriculum so that the benefits of all-day kindergarten are not short-lived.

This is a complex issue, and for every study that recommends all-day kindergarten, there is likely to be on that says it doesn’t matter. But this lack of concensus is of little significance, given that most topics in education have similar disagreements.

There is no way that I -- or anyone -- can “prove” to this reader that in every case all-day kindergarten is the best choice.

I have pasted below some links and commentary I pulled together for someone late last year.

I stand by my opinion that all-day kindergarten would be an improvement to our education system.

==> Mike.


This was discussed last year in Michigan.

The AFT liked the Senate bill:


Nationwide, the percentage of full-day programs has grown from about 25 percent in 1984 to 60 percent in 2001, and likely more by now. The trend, if anything, is accelerating. Half-day kindergarten is so unpopular in northern New Jersey that many families hold their kids out of the public schools or send them to private full-day kindergarten programs. A glance at news reports shows that in recent weeks pressure has mounted for such programs in Michigan, North Dakota, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, Connecticut, Washington, Nebraska and Kansas.

Longer classes include more instruction, which is meant to give kids a boost in reading, math and other academic skills. Advocates haul out various studies indicating that all-day kindergarten helps children, especially those from lower-income families, learn more and faster.

We're skeptical. Research going back seven decades suggests that any advantage of early education disappears later on. Earlier this year, for example, the Goldwater Institute in Arizona found that any boost kids received from preschool and kindergarten programs had vanished by the fifth grade.

"This report demonstrates that all-day kindergarten is not an education reform strategy that policymakers can hang their hats on," said Darcy Olsen, president of the institute. "All-day 'k' delivers short-term benefits at best."


There is apparently some paper referenced here that would be worth tracking down:

He points to a 2004 paper that McMaster University Assistant Professor Philip DeCicca wrote while at the University of Michigan. DeCicca analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education and found that although all-day kindergarten pupils see education gains, those strides may be temporary, especially for minority children. After a few years, some minority children who attend all-day kindergarten do worse than their half-day counterparts, DeCicca's paper suggests.

Napolitano's office argues that the vast majority of data support the positive benefits of full-day kindergarten, though all-day kindergarten isn't a magic bullet, acknowledged Becky Hill, the governor's education adviser.

"There will never be one thing that will make all children better learners," she said. "It's intended to be one piece of a better system."



Here's something from NCES:

March, 2006
"Spending more time on subject and working
within a full-day kindergarten structure were found to be associated with relatively large gains in achievement."

From ERIC:

Using longitudinal data, I estimate the impact of full-day kindergarten on standardized test scores in mathematics and reading, as children progress from kindergarten to first grade. I find that full-day kindergarten has sizeable impacts on academic achievement, but the estimated gains are short-lived, particularly for minority children. Given the additional expense of full-day kindergarten, information regarding the size and duration of gains should be of great interest to policy makers.



A tough "anti" full day K article from The Mackinac Center:


Some Michigan Full Day Kindergarten Programs:

Conclusions and Recommendations
The All Day Kindergarten Program at William Grace Elementary School has substantially increased tests scores, met the academic and social needs of students, has the overwhelming support of parents, and has the potential to generate additional revenue for the district by attracting additional students to the district. Therefore, it is recommended the program be continued at William Grace. If the district has sufficient resources, the program should be expanded to other schools, particularly those with the greatest needs based on the research that was reviewed.


from the March 09, 2005 edition
Across the country many districts are fighting to retain and boost full-day programs even as budgets grow tighter. Last year, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest, voted to expand full-day kindergarten programs. Maryland school systems are mandated to have full-day kindergarten by the 2007-2008 school year. And in Oklahoma, Gov. Brad Henry has pushed an initiative to fund $114 million for a school-improvement initiative that includes all-day kindergarten.


It appears the website here has some missing text, but here is what is says: The new study will be published in February and was discussed on the front page of the non-partisan, well-respected Education Week, October 19. Researchers used data from a nationally representative sample of about 8,000 students.
The authors are from the University of Michigan, University of Oregon in Eugene, and ChicagoĆ­s Erikson Institute.



A bit dated, but contains some data:


Negative parent reaction:


A bit dated, but still relevent from the National Association of Elementary School Principals
There is an impressive amount of research supporting full-day kindergarten’s benefit to students academically, socially, and emotionally. Principals agree.


adam mclane said...

"There is no way that I can “prove” to this reader that in every case all-day kindergarten is the best choice."

This statement is precisely why this should be a district issue and not a state-wide issue.

I am tired of politicians and educators experimenting on our children. With so much broken in the school systems, let's leave 4-5 year olds out of it. said...

Adam's right... actually, I'd take it a step further... it isn't necessarily even a "district" issue. It's a family issue.

All-Day-K may very well have merit to spare but quality time being a kid with mom or dad is worth more than anything else a 5 year old is going to get.

ADK gets scary when folks start using the "M"(andatory) word.

--Nick said...

Adam's right... actually, I'd take it a step further... it isn't necessarily even a "district" issue. It's a family issue.

All-Day-K may very well have merit to spare but quality time being a kid with mom or dad is worth more than anything else a 5 year old is going to get.

ADK gets scary when folks start using the "M"(andatory) word.


Anonymous said...

"But this lack of concensus is of little significance, given that most topics in education have similar disagreements."

That statement thus negates you, Mike, and your entire blog if you think about it ;)

Mike Reno said...



I'm sure, though, it wasn't that statement alone that negated me in your view! :-)

Some may argue that all-day K doesn't have universal support, or that different studies may contradict each other. My point was that very little in education has universal support, so that reason alone should not be a justification for dismissing it.

==> Mike.

Mike Reno said...

Nick / Adam.

Well, there's no trumping that emotional appeal. Fortunately, home schooling -- which allows lots of time with Mom and Dad -- remains an option for parents.

And, as I've said, I like the approach that allows parents to choose full-day or half-day. I am well aware that emotions drive this particular debate for some parents, and I want to respect that.

The only "M" I'm advocating for is that districts be required to offer a meaningful all-day option.

Nobody can argue against the romantic vision of spending hours of quality time with our children every morning or afternoon. But you seem to be trying to juxtapose it against a parent's desire to place a high priority on education. I certainly hope you are not trying to suggest that parents who want the best education possible for their children somehow love or value their children less.

I know I don't.

Keep in mind that even private schools -- even those that put family and religion at the forefront -- offer all day kindergarten.

I've seen classrooms full of well adjusted all-day kindergarteners, and it's a bit unfair to suggest that parents who believe in the educational value of all-day K are doing so at the expense of spending quality time with their children. It seems akin to trying to foist guilt on families with two working parents.

I look at this from the perspective of what can public schools do to improve the education of Michigan's children, and despite what you might think Adam, this is not an "experiment". There is a strong case supporting all-day K.

==> Mike.

adam mclane said...

Mike, let's refresh how this was sold in my community.

- All day K was offered. (Kinderplus they called it, making half day what... kinderminus... cute marketing there) It was sold to parents in the meeting (I was there) as a cheap child care solution. "More convenient than other options at a fraction of the cost."
- Parents were told that if they wanted to opt in, their child may end up bussed to a non-neighborhood school.
- Parents were told that if they wanted to opt in, they had to front about $4k for it per pupil.
- I think 3 families selected it and the program failed.

Think about it, the people who needs it the most... the poor. Can they afford $4k? Most of the people who needed it most in my district had never seen $4k at one time in their life!

An emotional issue? That's a nice way to try to ignore the point of my comment.

My point is simple: Use proven educational methods and not experiments.

All day K is an experiment. Proponents "think" and reason that more classroom time equals a better education. My argument is that children are not cognitively or emotionally developmentally prepared to sit in a structured environment for an all day program. My first grader still comes home exhausted... how could a child almost 2 years younger possibly make it?

The state of Michigan is not a laboratory for educational psychology. Allow willing participants to be experimented upon.

Homeschooling an option? Sure, just help pass a bill taking those state dollars and giving them back to the families and I'm all over it.

Why are people pushing this? Isn't this really about getting districts more money?

I know in my child's elementary school... all day K would result in them having to hire 2 more teachers and add 2 more classrooms they don't have.

And we all know that results in one thing... more taxes.

How about taking the same investment of resources and investing it in making the current k-12 model work?

Mike Reno said...


What you are talking about -- Kinderplus -- is not all day kindergarten. I do not disagree with your assessment of that program. We have it in Rochester, and call it K-Club. It is not all-day kindergarten.

You are confusing the issues. I'm talking about educational kindergarten, not supplemental daycare.

Those supplemental programs are simply wrong. The state is already paying a full time rate for your child, but only providing a half-day of service. I think it's an insult to ask for an additional $4K.

I would also invite you to reconsider your belief that districts are pushing this because they want more money. First of all, districts aren't pushing this. And the 12 districts in Oakland County that are offering this do not get any more money, nor are they not allowed to increase taxes.

I do agree that some children -- and some parents -- are not ready for all-day K. I've said that repeatedly, and don't know how much clearer I can be on that topic.

But your antidotal evidence about your children is no more significant than mine would be. Both of my children started attending all-day programs at 3-4 years old. They benefited tremendously. And they attended with many children of the same age.

Perhaps more significant is that there are lots of schools that offer it around Michigan, and around the nation, and most children are able to handle it.

More importantly, I think if you read the numerous links I provided, you'll find that the benefits of all-day kindergarten are not some fantasy. They may be poorly implemented in some cases, but they work.

And investing in all-day K is an investment in K-12.

In the end, I'm not sure what would convince you that this works.

Sandra H. said...

As a former Illinois School Board member - first thanks for being a Board member. It's a hard job.

Second, yes public K-12 education needs an overhaul. So why not start at the beginning with a quality full day K program?

Here is a link to 2 research and decided for yourself. I think there's no down side and a lot of upside.