Policies & Positions‎ > ‎K-Power‎ > ‎

#8 K-Power - Full Day Kindergarten

All Schools Should:

Provide a full-day, every-day kindergarten program.



A kindergarten program that is the same length of the instructional day as first grade.


The program runs every day from Monday through Friday (i.e., children do not attend every other day or only a few days)


What are current policies and practices?

The availability of a full-day, every-day kindergarten program varies by and within states.  Few states require districts to offer full-day kindergarten, for instance:[i]

  • 11 states and DC require districts to offer full-day kindergarten
  • 34 states require districts to offer part-day kindergarten (usually called “half-day” kindergarten, these programs can run as few as 2.5 hours)
  • Five states do not require districts to offer kindergarten

The hours in a “full-day” kindergarten also vary, as definitions of instructional hours in a full-day kindergarten by state. Programs considered full-day range from four to seven hours a day, while part-day ranges from two hours to three-and-a-quarter hours per day.[ii]

Funding policies that only provide funding for part-day program can disincentivize districts from offering full-day kindergarten.  For districts that don’t have full-day funding, other funding sources, such as charging parents tuition, are used to cover the added cost.


Why does it matter?

Equitable access to full-day, every-day kindergarten is important more now than ever. Forty-seven (47) states and territories have taken up the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which means that each child in kindergarten will be expected to master the same standards, regardless of how much time they spend in kindergarten.  A child in a 2.5 hour a day program will be expected to reach the same standards as a child in a full-day program.  As states develop assessment measures for kindergarten, it is crucial to give the same amount of time to students.

Providing full-day every day kindergarten supports continuity for children as more enter from full-day prekindergarten programs. Switching back to part-day at kindergarten and then resuming a full-day schedule at 1st grade simply does not make sense.

A full-day program offers teachers the time to use developmentally appropriate practices with students, rather than use drills and memorization. Developmentally appropriate teaching engages children and supports lasting learning. Teachers have more time to address all domains in a full-day program.[iii] In a part-day program, time constraints may limit teachers to focusing on only math or reading.

Do full-day programs benefit students more than part-day programs?

Research comparing the efficacy of full-day to part-day is limited and some was conducted prior to the Common Core State Standards and other measures holding all students accountable for achieving the same standards regardless of time-in-school models. That stated, the preponderance of data suggest that full-day kindergarten produces more significant academic and social benefits for students than part-day kindergarten, particularly for disadvantaged students.

Key to achieving the benefits a full day can offer is how the additional time is used. As Wasik et. al. (2013) note, "More of a program of mediocre quality does not lead to positive effects on child outcomes. In other words, the positive impact of instruction on young children is not related solely to dosage of the intervention. Dosage needs to be considered along with other factors such as quality of the intervention and fidelity of implementation." (10)

Resources [iv]

Cannon, J.S., Jacknowitz, A., Painter, G. (2006). Is full better than half? Examining the longitudinal effects of full-day kindergarten attendance. Journal of Policy Analysis and management (25), 2. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/working_papers/2005/RAND_WR266-1.pdf

Cannon, J.S., Jacknowitz, A., & Painter, G. (2011). The effect of attending full-day kindergarten on English learner students. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, (30), 2, pp. 387-309. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pam.20174/abstract

Child Trends. (2013). Full-day kindergarten. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=full-day-kindergarten

Children’s Defense Fund. (2012). Increasing access to full-day k: A key strategy for boosting learning and closing achievement gaps for children.  Retrieved from http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/data/increasing-access-full-day-k.pdf

Cooper, H., Batts, Allen, A., Patall, E.A., & Dent, A.L. (2010). Effects of Full-Day Kindergarten on Academic Achievement and Social Development. Educational Research (80), 1. Retrieved from http://rer.sagepub.com/content/80/1/34.short

Education Commission of the States. (2013). Early learning: Kindergarten online database. Denver, CO: Author. Retrieved from http://www.ecs.org/html/educationIssues/Kindergarten/KDB_intro_SF.asp

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

Lee, V.E., Burkam, D. T., Ready, D. D., Honigman, J., & Meisels, S. J. (2006).  Full-Day versus Half-Day Kindergarten: In Which Program Do Children Learn More? American Journal of Education (112), 2.

Lu, A. (2014, January 13). Pushing full-day kindergarten. Stateline. Retrieved from http://www.pewstates.org/projects/stateline/headlines/pushing-full-day-kindergarten-85899532568

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

Warburton, W.P., Warburton, R.N., & Hertzman, C. (2012). Does full day kindergarten help kids? Canadian Public Policy, 38(4), 591-603

Walston, J., & West, J. (2004). 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. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2004078

Wasik, B. A., Matera, S. K., Lloyd, C. M., & Boller, K. (2013). Intervention dosage in early childhood care and education: It’s complicated. (OPRE Research Brief OPRE 2013-15). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[i] Education Commission of the States. (2013).  District Must Offer Kindergarten. Denver, CO: Author. Retrieved from http://ecs.force.com/mbdata/mbquestU?SID=a0i70000004J3cq&rep=Kq16&Q=Q3252

[ii] Workman, E. (2013). Inequalities at the starting line: State kindergarten policies. Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States. Retrieved from http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/01/06/78/10678.pdf

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