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Full-day kindergarten study




Many states and districts offer full-day kindergarten (FDK) to provide additional time for student learning in the hope that it will improve student outcomes. Prior research has shown an association between FDK and gains in student outcomes such as math and reading standardized assessment scores. In 2015/16, through a policy shift, Oregon changed its funding structure for kindergarten enrollment, which created incentives for districts to offer FDK. This study examines three aspects of FDK in Oregon. First, the study looked at the characteristics of Oregon districts that offered FDK in 2013/14 and 2014/15 (the two years before the policy shift) and how those FDK programs were structured. Next, the study estimated the impact of attending FDK in one large Oregon school district in 2013/14 and 2014/15 on academic and non-academic outcomes. Lastly, the study explored how FDK programs were implemented in 2017/18 (after the policy shift).

The study found that in 2013/14 and 2014/15, a majority of Oregon districts offered FDK in some capacity to all students and used district funding to support it. In one large Oregon school district, approximately 30 percent of kindergarten students in 2013/14 and 2014/15 were in FDK, and they tended to be more economically advantaged than their non-FDK peers. Compared to attending half-day kindergarten, attending FDK in this district had a small positive impact on attendance in grades 1 and 3 for the 2013/14 cohort and in grades K–3 for the 2014/15 cohort; a negative impact on English language proficiency in grade 3 in certain domains for English learners; and no impact on grade 3 test scores in math or reading, grade retention, or discipline. The results for attendance varied for different student groups, but there was no impact on test scores for different student groups.

Examining how FDK programs were implemented after the policy shift, only 22 percent of teachers responded to a survey, and those respondents reported a focus on teacher-directed activities and limited use of kindergarten entry assessment data in 2017/18. These findings cannot be generalized to all FDK teachers in Oregon and only apply to teachers who responded. In the same year, the 42 percent of principals who responded to the survey reported that a small number of FDK students only received a half day of instruction and that there was a lack of curricular and professional development alignment between preschool and kindergarten. Again, these findings cannot be generalized to all schools with FDK. The study's mixed findings indicate that FDK may slightly improve student attendance in early elementary grades for some student groups and in settings that are similar to the large district examined in this study. The study also reveals a need for more research on the barriers to offering, accessing, and implementing FDK, as well as the variation in the impact of FDK on student outcomes. Finally, the study points to a need for additional state guidance and support on how to implement high-quality FDK programs.

Publication Type:

Impact Study

Online Availability:
Publication Date:
December 2021