Full-Day Kindergarten
Amanda Miller

What are the various kinds of kindergarten schedules?

A full-day kindergarten program is a program in which a child attends school each weekday for approximately six hours. Two other types of programs are half-day kindergarten programs, in which the child attends school each weekday for 2½-3 hours in either the morning or the afternoon, and alternate-day kindergarten programs, in which the child attends school every other weekday.

How common are full-day kindergarten programs?

There has been a trend away from half-day or alternate-day kindergarten schedules and toward full-day kindergarten in many school districts. "In the fall of 1998, about 4 million children were attending kindergarten," says a National Center for Educational Statistics study. "[Fifty-five] percent [of kindergartners] were in full-day programs and 45 percent were in part-day programs" (West et al., 2000). Changes in American society and education over the last 20 years—such as the increase in single-parent and dual-employment households and the fact that most children now spend a significant part of the day away from home—have contributed to the popularity of all-day (every day) kindergarten programs in many communities (Gullo, 1990). Studies show that parents favor a full-day program that reduces the number of transitions kindergartners experience in a typical day (Housden & Kam, 1992; Johnson, 1993). Research also suggests that many children benefit more, academically and socially, during the primary years from participation in full-day programs than from participation in half-day kindergarten programs (Cryan et al., 1992; Karweit, 1992; Gullo, 2000; Rothenberg, 1995).

What are the characteristics of effective full-day kindergarten programs?

Full-day kindergarten allows children and teachers time to explore topics in depth, reduces the ratio of transition time to class time, provides for greater continuity of day-to-day activities, and provides an environment that favors a more developmentally appropriate approach to the curriculum. Recent research indicates that, compared with children in formal academically oriented programs, children in kindergarten programs that provided more child-initiated and informal activities rated their abilities significantly higher, had higher expectations for success on academic tasks, and were less dependent on adults for permission and approval (Stipek et al., 1995).

Observers of trends in kindergarten scheduling argue that changing the length of the kindergarten day begs the underlying issue of creating developmentally and individually appropriate learning environments for all kindergarten children, regardless of the length of the school day (Karweit, 1992; Katz, 1995).

Experts urge teachers, administrators, and parents to resist the temptation to provide full-day programs that are didactic and academically focused rather than intellectually engaging in tone. Seat work, worksheets, and early instruction in reading or other academic subjects are inappropriate for most kindergarten children. By contrast, developmentally appropriate, informal, intellectually engaging all-day kindergarten programs

  • integrate new learning with past experiences through project work and through mixed-ability and mixed-age grouping (Drew & Law, 1990; Katz, 1995) in an unhurried setting;
  • involve children in first-hand experience and informal interaction with objects, other children, and adults (Housden & Kam, 1992);
  • emphasize language development and appropriate preliteracy experiences;
  • make it easier to work with parents to share information about their children, and build understanding of parent and teacher roles;
  • emphasize reading to children in school and at home, and set the stage for later parent-teacher partnerships;
  • offer a balance of small group, large group, and individual activities (Katz, 1995);
  • assess students' progress through close teacher observation and systematic collection and examination of students' work, often by using portfolios; and
  • develop children's social skills, including conflict resolution strategies (Rothenberg, 1995).

What are the effects of full-day kindergarten programs?

A growing body of research continues to examine the effects of full-day kindergarten (Clark & Kirk, 2000). These studies suggest that full-day kindergarten programs produce learning gains that are at least as great as, and usually greater than, the learning gains of half-day kindergarten programs. No studies to date show greater gains, academic or developmental, for students in half-day programs over those for students in full-day programs. Also, a number of studies focusing on disadvantaged students showed greater learning gains for students in full-day kindergarten programs. Of the limited number of studies of the long-term effects of full-day kindergarten, several suggest that some long-term learning gains exist.

Cryan et al.'s work (1992) is among the studies that have found a broad range of effects, including a positive relationship between participation in full-day kindergarten and later academic success. After comparing similar half-day and full-day programs in a statewide longitudinal study, Cryan et al. found that full-day kindergartners exhibited more independent learning, classroom involvement, productivity in work with peers, and reflectivity than half-day kindergartners. They were also more likely to approach the teacher and they expressed less withdrawal, anger, shyness, and blaming behavior than half-day kindergartners. In general, children in full-day programs exhibited more positive behaviors than did pupils in half-day or alternate-day programs. Results similar to those of Cryan et al. have been found in other studies (Holmes & McConnell, 1990; Karweit, 1992). Clark and Kirk's (2000) recent review of the research also finds evidence in several studies for these positive effects.


Clark, Patricia, & Kirk, Elizabeth. (2000). All-day kindergarten. Review of research. Childhood Education, 76(4), 228-31. (ERIC Journal No. EJ606950)

Cryan, John R.; Sheehan, Robert; Wiechel, Jane; & Bandy-Hedden, Irene G. (1992). Success outcomes of full-day kindergarten: More positive behavior and increased achievement in the years after. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 7(2), 187-203. (ERIC Journal No. EJ450525)

Drew, Mary, & Law, Carolyn. (1990). Making early childhood education work. Principal, 69(5), 10-12. (ERIC Journal No. EJ410163)

Gullo, Dominic F. (1990). The changing family context: Implications for the development of all-day kindergartens. Young Children, 45(4), 35-39. (ERIC Journal No. EJ409110)

Gullo, Dominic. (2000). Long-term educational effects of half-day vs. full-day kindergarten. Early Child Development and Care, 160, 17-24. (ERIC Journal No. 603880)

Holmes, C. Thomas, & McConnell, Barbara M. (1990). Full-day versus half-day kindergarten: An experimental study. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Boston, MA. (ERIC Document No. ED369540)

Housden, Theresa, & Kam, Rose. (1992). Full-day kindergarten: A summary of the research. Carmichael, CA: San Juan Unified School District. (ERIC Document No. ED345868)

Johnson, Jessie. (1993). Language development component: All day kindergarten program 1991-1992. Final evaluation report. Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Chapter 1. Columbus, OH: Columbus Public Schools Dept. of Program Evaluation. (ERIC Document No. ED363406)

Karweit, Nancy. (1992). The kindergarten experience. Educational Leadership, 49(6), 82-86. (ERIC Journal No. EJ441182)

Katz, Lilian. (1995). Talks with teachers of young children: A collection. Norwood, NJ: Ablex. (ERIC Document No. ED380232)

Full-Day Kindergarten Programs
Dianne Rothenberg (1995)

Stipek, Deborah; Feiler, Rachelle; Daniels, Denise; & Milburn, Sharon. (1995). Effects of different instructional approaches on young children's achievement and motivation. Child Development 66(1), 209-223. (ERIC Journal No. EJ501879)

West, Jerry; Denton, Kristin; & Germino-Hausken, Elvira. (2000). America's kindergartners [Online].


How to Obtain ERIC Documents and Journal Articles:

References identified with an ED (ERIC document)or EJ (ERIC journal) are cited in the ERIC database. ERIC Documents (citations identified by an ED number) may be available in full text from ERIC at no cost at the ERIC Web site: http://eric.ed.gov. Journal articles are available from the original journal, interlibrary loan services, or article reproduction clearinghouses.

If you would like to conduct your own free ERIC database searches via the Internet, go directly to http://eric.ed.gov/

ERIC database search through 4/2005 on Full-Day Kindergarten

  • First Things First: Pre-Kindergarten as the Starting Point for Education Reform. ED482855
  • At the Starting Line: Early Childhood Education Programs in the 50 States. ED473694
  • Full-Day Kindergarten: Exploring an Option for Extended Learning. ED472733
  • Results for Rhode Island's Children: Progress and Challenges. A Report by Rhode Island KIDS COUNT Based on the Goals of the Rhode Island Children's Cabinet. ED472545
  • The Efficacy of an Extended-Day Kindergarten Program: A Report for the St. James School Division (1999-2000, 2000-2001). ED468942
  • Kindergarten Student Progress: Acquisition of Reading Skills, 2000-2001. EJ648685
  • Early Learners: Are Full-Day Academic Kindergartens Too Much, Too Soon? EJ624722
  • A Comparison of the Literacy Effects of Full Day vs. Half-Day Kindergarten. ED451938
  • Report of the Detroit Public Schools Kindergarten Teacher Survey, 1999-2000. ED455012
  • Kindergarten: The Overlooked School Year. Working Paper Series. ED458948
  • Early Learners: Are Full-Day Academic Kindergartens Too Much, Too Soon? EJ624722
  • A Comparison of the Literacy Effects of Full Day vs. Half-Day Kindergarten. ED451938
  • All-Day Kindergarten. Review of Research. EJ606950
  • Full Day Kindergarten at an Inner City Elementary School: Perceived and Actual Effects. ED440751
  • Which Is the Best Kindergarten? EJ604846
  • The Long Term Educational Effects of Half-Day vs Full-Day Kindergarten. EJ603880
  • Literacy Instruction in Half- and Whole-Day Kindergarten: Research to Practice. Literacy Studies Series. ED436756
  • Early Childhood Education Services for Kindergarten-Age Children in Four Canadian Provinces: Scope, Nature, and Future Models. EJ595656
  • Evaluation of a Full-Day Kindergarten Program. EJ589453
  • Anchorage School District Full-Day Kindergarten Study: A Follow-up of the Kindergarten Classes of 1987-88, 1988-89, and 1989-90. ED426790
  • Full-Day Kindergarten vs. Half-Day Kindergarten: The Outcome of First Grade. ED417380
  • An Overview of Full-Day Kindergarten. ED408046
  • Practitioner Perspective. Full-Day Kinde rgarten Perspective. EJ563075
  • What Do They Do All Day? Comprehensive Evaluation of a Full-Day Kindergarten. EJ563073
  • The Effect of Full-Day Kindergarten on Student Achievement: A Meta-Analysis. EJ561697
  • What Should Parents Know about Full-Day Kindergarten? ED405129
  • Teachers' Perceptions of the All-Day, Alternating Day Kindergarten Schedule. ED396853
  • The Effects of Full-Day Kindergarten on Student Achievement and Affect. ED395691
  • The Impact of Half-Day versus Full-Day Kindergarten Programs on Student Outcomes: A Pilot Project. Project Report. ED396857