Full-day preschool linked with increased school readiness compared with part-day

We have been posting research of the importance of preschool for quite a while, although it doesn’t mean that it’s a clear fix if there isn’t follow up support. According to a study in the November 26 issue of JAMA, children who attended a full-day preschool program had higher scores on measures of school readiness skills (language, math, socio-emotional development, and physical health), increased attendance, and reduced chronic absences compared to children who attended part-day preschool.

If you want to get the information in 2 minutes, check this video or this interview with one of the researchers.

From the press release:

Participation in high-quality early childhood programs at ages 3 and 4 years is associated with greater school readiness and achievement, higher rates of educational attainment and socioeconomic status, and lower rates of crime. Although publicly funded preschool such as Head Start and state prekindergarten serve an estimated 42 percent of U.S. 4-year­ olds, most provide only part-day services, and only 15 percent of 3-year-olds enroll. These rates plus differences in quality may account for only about half of entering kindergartners having mastered skills needed for school success. One approach for enhancing effectiveness is increasing from a part-day to a full-day schedule; whether this improves outcomes is unknown, according to background information in the article.

Arthur J. Reynolds, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and colleagues investigated whether full-day preschool was associated with higher levels of school readiness, attendance, and parent involvement compared with part-day participation. The study consisted of an end-of-preschool follow-up of a group of predominantly low-income, ethnic minority children enrolled in the Child-Parent Centers (CPC) for the full day (7 hours; n = 409) or part day (3 hours on average; n = 573) in the 2012-2013 school year in 11 schools in Chicago.

Implemented in the Chicago Public Schools since 1967, the Midwest CPC Education Program provides comprehensive education and family services beginning in preschool. A scale-up of the CPC program began in 2012 in more diverse communities. The model was revised to incorporate advances in teaching practices and family services and included the opening of full-day preschool classrooms in some sites.

At the end of preschool, the researchers evaluated school readiness skills (in several domains) of the children, attendance and chronic absences, and parental involvement. They found that full-day preschool participants had higher scores than part-day peers on measures of socio-emotional development (58.6 vs 54.5), language (39.9 vs 37.3), math (40.0 vs 36.4), and physical health (35.5 vs 33.6). Scores for literacy (64.5 vs 58.6) and cognitive development (59.7 vs 57.7) were not significantly different.

Full-day preschool graduates also had higher rates of attendance (85.9 percent vs 80.4 percent) and lower rates of chronic absences (10 percent or greater days missed; 53.0 percent vs 71.6 percent; 20 percent or greater days missed; 21.2 percent vs 38.8 percent), but no differences in parental involvement.

“Full-day preschool appears to be a promising strategy for school readiness. The size and breadth of associations go beyond previous studies. The positive association of full-day preschool also suggests that increasing access to early childhood programs should consider the optimal dosage of services. In addition to increased educational enrichment, full-day preschool benefits parents by providing children with a continually enriched environment throughout the day, thereby freeing parental time to pursue career and educational opportunities. By offering another service option, full-day preschool also can increase access for families who may not otherwise enroll,” the authors write.

They add that these findings need to be replicated in other programs and contexts.

Abstract of the research:

Importance  Early childhood interventions have demonstrated positive effects on well-being. Whether full-day vs part-day attendance improves outcomes is unknown.

Objective  To evaluate the association between a full- vs part-day early childhood program and school readiness, attendance, and parent involvement.

Design, Setting, and Participants  End-of-preschool follow-up of a nonrandomized, matched-group cohort of predominantly low-income, ethnic minority children enrolled in the Child-Parent Centers (CPC) for the full day (7 hours; n = 409) or part day (3 hours on average; n = 573) in the 2012-2013 school year in 11 schools in Chicago, Illinois.

Intervention  The Midwest CPC Education Program provides comprehensive instruction, family-support, and health services from preschool to third grade.

Main Outcomes and Measures  School readiness skills at the end of preschool, attendance and chronic absences, and parental involvement. The readiness domains in the Teaching Strategies GOLD Assessment System include a total of 49 items with a score range of 105-418. The specific domains are socioemotional with 9 items (score range, 20-81), language with 6 items (score range, 15-54), literacy with 12 items (score range, 9-104), math with 7 items (score, 8-60), physical health with 5 items (score range, 14-45), and cognitive development with 10 items (score range, 18-90).

Results  Full-day preschool participants had higher scores than part-day peers on socioemotional development (58.6 vs 54.5; difference, 4.1; 95% CI, 0.5-7.6; P = .03), language (39.9 vs 37.3; difference, 2.6; 95% CI, 0.6-4.6; P = .01), math (40.0 vs 36.4; difference, 3.6; 95% CI, 0.5-6.7; P = .02), physical health (35.5 vs 33.6; difference, 1.9; 95% CI, 0.5-3.2; P = .006), and the total score (298.1 vs 278.2; difference, 19.9; 95% CI, 1.2-38.4; P = .04). Literacy (64.5 vs 58.6; difference, 5.9; 95% CI, −0.07 to 12.4; P = .08) and cognitive development (59.7 vs 57.7; difference, 2.0; 95% CI, −2.4 to 6.3; P = .38) were not significant. Full-day preschool graduates also had higher rates of attendance (85.9% vs 80.4%; difference, 5.5; 95% CI, 2.6-8.4;P = .001) and lower rates of chronic absences (≥10% days missed; 53.0% vs 71.6%; difference, −18.6; 95% CI, −28.5 to −8.7; P = .001; ≥20% days missed; 21.2% vs 38.8%; difference −17.6%; 95% CI, −25.6 to −9.7;P < .001) but no differences in parental involvement.

Conclusions and Relevance  In an expansion of the CPCs in Chicago, a full-day preschool intervention was associated with increased school readiness skills in 4 of 6 domains, attendance, and reduced chronic absences compared with a part-day program. These findings should be replicated in other programs and contexts.

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