High quality preschool programs, both part-day and full-day, offer a number of benefits to both child and parent. Recent research has provided us with evidence that children attending full-day preschool programs may have an edge, though. Results show full-day preschoolers obtain higher “school readiness scores” in various measures including language, math, socio-emotional development, and physical health. They also exhibit superior rates of attendance and reduced chronic absences compared to part-day preschoolers.
Full Day versus Part Day
Researchers at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, gathered evidence from an end of preschool follow up in a group of low income, ethnic minority children from 11 schools in Chicago. Four-hundred and nine children attended full day preschool, while 573 attended part day. Full day participants exhibited significantly higher school readiness scores than their part-day counterparts— suggesting that full day preschoolers are more prepared academically, socially, and physically, to enter a full time school program. Currently, about 42% of four year olds and 15% of three year olds in the United States attend publicly funded preschools— most of these programs only provide part day services. This, along with variations in program quality, may account for why only half of children entering kindergarten have mastered the skills necessary for school success. Based on this new evidence, it is possible these programs might increase their effectiveness by switching from a part day to a full day schedule.
Weighing Your Options
Independent of the academic benefits associated with full day preschool programs, they also provide children with a continually stimulating and enriched environment throughout the day. This consequently frees time for parents to pursue career or educational goals. Despite these numerous benefits, full day preschool continues to be about twice the cost of part day. Experts have yet to decide whether these findings are substantial enough to justify such an increase in expenses.