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#1 K-Power - High Quality Kindergarten

All Children in the U.S. should be provided the opportunity to:

Participate in a high quality kindergarten program with a developmentally appropriate environment, including a comprehensive curriculum that addresses all domains important for young children.


High quality

A high quality kindergarten programs supports and fosters children’s development and learning in all domains health and physical, perceptional and motor development, social and emotional development, approaches to learning, language and communication development, and cognitive development. 

Developmentally appropriate environment

For kindergarten students, a developmentally appropriate environment is one in which children have the opportunity to learn through play, exploring the environment, and interacting with their peers. It takes into consideration 1) child development and learning, 2) individually appropriateness, 3) culturally appropriateness[i]. 

Comprehensive curriculum

A comprehensive curriculum meets state content standards, but also takes into account children’s developmental needs, the needs and interest of the children in the class, and individual children’s needs. It also incorporates skills and concepts across content areas and builds on skills obtained before preschool, while also purposefully preparing kindergarteners to build on and expand their knowledge in first grade and beyond. [ii]


Young children’s development covers five domains[iii]:

1.     Health and physical, perceptional and motor development

2.     Social and emotional development

3.     Approaches to learning

4.     Language and communication development

5.     Cognitive development


Why does high quality matter?

Access to full-day kindergarten is important but just extending how long children are in school does not necessarily mean the quality of teaching children experience changes.[iv] To achieve strong outcomes in early childhood programs, quality is key.  Studies of Project STAR found attendance higher-quality kindergarten classrooms had long term effects, such as higher earnings and college attendance rates.[v]

Research has suggested that kindergarten teachers who are educated on early childhood specific pedagogy and theory produce the best results.[vi]  Teachers trained in developmentally appropriate practice can effectively support a high quality classroom.

What does a high quality kindergarten look like?

Step into a high quality kindergarten classroom and you will see children excited about learning – children who are engaged and learning through their environment.  You will not see children lined up in rows at desks.  What you will see is a lot of activity – children participating in activity centers, literacy builders through the classroom, children’s art, math manipulatives, students engaging with one another, and a host of other  resources and activities.  All this is under the supervision of an intentional teacher, who has a pulse on the needs of each child and who intentionally creates a learning environment that is child-centered. 

The New Jersey Department of Education has a 3-part video series that provides a look at what a high quality kindergarten looks like.[vii]

How can high quality be attained?

Just instituting extended hours in and of itself will not lead to the benefits full-day kindergarten offers – teachers must be trained in and be able to use methods that evoke the most developmental benefits and “school district administrators can play important leadership roles in building comprehensive professional development systems that support PreK-3rd teachers and their efforts to create effective learning environments.” [viii]

States can promote the inclusion of early childhood education theory and practices by stipulating that those teaching grades K-3 receive training in early childhood development during their credential program. 



Chetty, R.C., Friedman, J.N., Hilger, N., Saez, E., Schanzenbach, D.W., and Yagan, D. (2011). Does your kindergarten classroom affect your earnings? Evidence from Project STAR. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press,  126(4), 1593-1660.

Hall-Kenyon, K.M., Bingham, G.E. & Korth, B.B. (2009). How do linguistically diverse students fare in full- and half-day kindergarten? Examining academic achievement, instructional quality, and attendance. Early Education and Development, 20(1), 25-52.

Kauerz, K. (2010). PreK-3rd: Putting full-day kindergarten in the middle. New York, NY: Foundation for Child Development.

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). (n.d.). DAP with Kindergarteners. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/dap/kindergarteners

NAEYC. (1996). Top 10 signs of a good kindergarten classroom.  Washington, DC: NAEYC. Retrieved from http://oldweb.naeyc.org/ece/1996/12.pdf

New Jersey Department of Education. (2011). New Jersey kindergarten implementation guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.nj.gov/education/ece/guide/KindergartenGuidelines.pdf

New Jersey Department of Education. (n.d.) High-quality kindergarten today.  Retrieved from http://www.nj.gov/education/ece/k/hqktoday/

Gullo, D.F. (ed.). (2006).  K today: Teaching and learning in the kindergarten year. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/Play/Ktodayplay.pdf

[i] National Association for the Education of Young Children. Developmentally appropriate practice. Accessed 02/27/13 http://www.naeyc.org/DAP

[ii] Adapted from the New Jersey Kindergarten Guidelines: “Kindergarten Guidelines for Comprehensive, Standards-Based Curriculum

[iii] Early learning and development standards. http://www.earlylearningguidelines-standards.org/issue.php?iid=8

[iv]  Hall-Kenyon, et.al., 2011

[v] Chetty, R.C., Friedman, J.N., Hilger, N., Saez, E., Schanzenbach, D.W., and Yagan, D. (2011). Does your kindergarten classroom affect your earnings? Evidence from Project STAR. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press,  126(4), 1593-1660.

[vi] Kauerz, 2010

[vii] To access these videos, go to http://www.nj.gov/education/ece/k/hqktoday/

[viii] Childress, Doyle & Thomas, 2009; Elmore, 2002