Full-Day Kindergarten

Many experts, including the Rand Institute in this recent, extensive research report, say full-day kindergarten does not improve students’ long-term learning accomplishment. Some studies claim to measure a short-term improvement, but by the time children are in high school, there is no measurable improvement in academic achievement.

But it became a political issue in the 2005 and 2007 legislative sessions. The outcome was earmarked state funding for full-day kindergarten in schools where more than half of the children were eligible for Free or Reduced Lunch (such children are labeled with the acronym FRL). Eligibility is determined by each family’s “legal” income – underground income does not count.

As the 2007 legislative session got underway, a group of off-site administrators at the Clark County School District captured headlines with their own study that showed a slight but measured improvement in second grade achievement amongst children eligible for free or reduced lunch who had full day kindergarten, versus those who hadn’t.

Because the legislature’s criteria for full-day kindergarten was the percentage of children in each school eligible for FRL, the school district had children who were eliglble and those who weren’t both in full day kindergarten in some schools, and both types of children who were not in full day kindergarten in others.

Here is the first story in the Las Vegas Review Journal about the administrator’s findings. As you can see from the correction dated six weeks later, it took quite some time to sort out the administrator’s statements. Critical analysis actually started just a few days later.

The Clark County School District answered questions with half-truths and non-answers for weeks, until they finally were forced to release the rest of their findings: full day kindergarten reduced the academic performance of children from middle and upper class homes.

Children from middle and upper class homes (defined as children who do not qualify for “free or reduced lunch”) who attended full day kindergarten performed three points worse than children who did not attend full day kindergarten.

The changes in ability measured were miniscule, and based on second grade achievement. Nearly all studies conclude there is no measurable increase in academic performance once these children are in high school. The real impact of this incident is that the Clark County School District would trumpet partial and deceiving research results.

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