The Best Early Childhood Approach

By Jim Hull

Students who attend prekindergarten (pre-k) are more likely to graduate from high school and score significantly higher on math and reading assessments than students who don’t -- the research consistently shows this. The research also is fairly clear that students who attend full-day kindergarten have better attendance and higher grade point averages, and are more likely to be on grade level by the third grade than students who only attended a half-day program. The research is quite clear that students do best if their early childhood education experience consisted of pre-k along with full-day kindergarten.

But what if your district can’t offer both? What if you have to choose between pre-k and full-day kindergarten? In a perfect world, all students would have access to high-quality pre-k and full-day kindergarten. Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world of unlimited resources to provide the ideal option to all students. We live in the real world, where most districts, especially in these lean economic times, simply do not have the resources to provide both pre-k and full-day kindergarten.

Yet, districts around the country are looking to boost student achievement while facing dwindling resources. Many school board members are wondering if their students are better off in schools that provide a combination of pre-k and half-day kindergarten or full-day kindergarten alone.

Do you have the information needed to make the right choice for your students? Unfortunately, research has provided little guidance in answering these important questions. That’s because pre-k and kindergarten only have been examined in isolation. The question has never been asked which of the combinations of pre-k and half/full-day kindergarten work best for students.

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