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Full-day and Half-day Kindergarten

In the 1998–99 school year, 61 percent of all U.S. schools that have a kindergarten program offer at least one full-day kindergarten class and 47 percent offer at least one half-day class. Overall, 56 percent of kindergarten children attend a full-day program (not shown in figures).1

A large majority of both full-day and half-day classes spend time each day on reading and language arts activities (97 and 96 percent, respectively). Other academic subjects, however, are more likely to be taught every day in full-day classes. Compared with half-day classes, a larger percentage of full-day classes spend time each day on mathematics (90 vs. 73 percent), social studies (30 vs. 18 percent), and science (24 vs. 10 percent) (figure 1).

Figure 1. Percent of U.S. public kindergarten classes that spend time each day on various academic subject areas, by program type: Spring 1999


Percent of U.S. public kindergarten classes that spend time each day on various academic subject areas, by program type: Spring 1999

SOURCE: Figure 23 in U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Full-day and Half-day Kindergarten in the United States: Findings from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99, NCES 2004-078, by Jill Walston and Jerry West.

On days when reading is taught, 31 percent of full-day classes spend more than an hour and a half on reading per day compared to 10 percent of half-day classes. On days when mathematics is taught, 21 percent of full-day classes spend more than an hour doing mathematics activities compared to 9 percent of half-day classes (not shown in figures).

The ECLS-K children were assessed in reading/language arts and mathematics in the fall and in the spring of the kindergarten year. Children in full-day programs, on average, make greater gains in their reading achievement scores from fall to spring (10.6) compared to those in half-day classes (9.4) (figure 2).

Figure 2. Public school first-time kindergartners’ mean reading gain scores, by program type: Fall 1998 to spring 1999


Public school first-time kindergartners’ mean reading gain scores, by program type: Fall 1998 to spring 1999

NOTE: Estimates are based on public school, first-time kindergarten children attending a regular kindergarten program (not a transitional or multi-grade class) who are assessed in English in both the fall and the spring. Only children with the same teacher in both the fall and spring are included in the analysis. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. The scores are simple means and are unadjusted for a number of other factors that are related to performance.
SOURCE: Figure 29 in U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Full-day and Half-day Kindergarten in the United States: Findings from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99, NCES 2004-078, by Jill Walston and Jerry West.

Children in full-day programs, on average, make greater gains in their mathematics achievement scores from fall to spring (8.6) compared to those in half-day classes (7.8) (figure 3).

Figure 3. Public school first-time kindergartners’ mean mathematics gain scores, by program type: Fall 1998 to spring 1999


Public school first-time kindergartners’ mean mathematics gain scores, by program type: Fall 1998 to spring 1999

NOTE: Estimates are based on public school, first-time kindergarten children attending a regular kindergarten program (not a transitional or multi-grade class) who are assessed in mathematics in both the fall and the spring. Only children with the same teacher in both the fall and spring are included in the analysis. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. The scores are simple means and are unadjusted for a number of other factors that are related to performance.
SOURCE: Figure 31 in U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Full-day and Half-day Kindergarten in the United States: Findings from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99, NCES 2004-078, by Jill Walston and Jerry West.

The differences in achievement gains associated with program type are not only apparent when simple comparisons of gains are made (figures 2 and 3), they persist when the comparisons take into account other important child and class characteristics. Findings from a multi-level regression analysis indicate that children in full-day classes make greater gains in both reading and mathematics compared to those in half-day classes after adjusting for gain score differences associated with race/ethnicity, poverty status, fall achievement level, sex, class size, amount of time for subject area instruction, and the presence of an instructional aide.


1 Estimates here and elsewhere in the indicator are not adjusted by other child, class or school variables unless noted.

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