One of the best ways to prepare young children for academic success is to enroll them in preschool. New research from the University of Minnesota finds that full-day preschool programs are more beneficial than part-day preschool for three- and four-year-old children. While the United States offers federally-funded programs like Head Start and other state-funded initiatives for approximately 40 percent of four-year-olds, most of these programs are for part-day preschool. Providing full-day preschool could help more children be ready for kindergarten.
The researchers surveyed the families of nearly 1,000 preschool students in 11 Chicago schools. The students were participants in the Midwest Child Parent Centers (CPC) Education program, which offers comprehensive education and family services beginning in early childhood. In 2012, CPC began providing full-day preschool, which lasts seven hours in contrast to part-day preschool’s three hours. At the end of the 2012-2013 preschool year, the researchers assessed the school readiness skills, attendance, and parental involvement of 409 children in full-day preschool and 573 in part-day preschool.
Attending full-day preschool was associated with several positive outcomes. The full-day preschool students had significantly higher scores than the part-day students in school readiness skills like socio-emotional development, language, math and physical health. Scores in literacy and cognition were not significantly better for the full-day students. The data also demonstrated a correlation between full-day preschool and increased attendance and reduced chronic absences. There was no difference in parental involvement rates between the part-day and full-day students.
The study suggests that the age at which children start preschool education could account for why some children are readier for kindergarten than others. The researchers say that more research into other types of preschool programs is necessary.
The study authors conclude that full-day preschool may be one way to grant access to critical services for early childhood development. “Full-day preschool appears to be a promising strategy for school readiness. The size and breadth of associations go beyond previous studies. The positive association of full-day preschool also suggests that increasing access to early childhood programs should consider the optimal dosage of services.”
This research is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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