The Case Against Full-Day Kindergarten

In a separate post, we covered the question: “If Budgets aren’t Going up Very Fast, Why are Property Taxes Increasing So Much?”  One of the conclusions is that the budget squeeze is bad and getting worse, and that makes this a very bad time to add a new program that will increase our costs every year into the future.

But a larger issue is that full‑day Kindergarten (compared to half‑day) has simply not been proven effective.  There are numerous studies, and the conclusions that they reach are varied.  In a recent paper on full-day Kindergarten, Dr. Jody Underwood states that

“Full-day kindergarten does not seem to offer a benefit over half-day, and in some cases might even be detrimental.”  Some studies indicate increased scores through grade 3, while others show no benefit.  Many of the studies show a leveling off of benefits by 3rd grade.

In a comparison of similar NH school districts with full-day vs. half-day kindergarten, there was little difference in subsequent test scores. (In fact schools with a half-day program actually did slightly better in 3rd grade test scores. See the data below.)

According to this data (provided by the WLC administration), schools with half-day Kindergarten performed 2 to 3 percentage points better in proficiency than schools with half-day Kindergarten.  At best, that’s a statistical tie.   Why would we invest tens of thousands of dollars per year in a statistical tie?  If we want the best value for our education spending, we should instead focus on the initiatives with the highest potential to add value for our students and their families.