Last week, the National School Boards Association's Center for Public Education released a report showing that children who attended pre-K plus half-day kindergarten were more likely to read at high levels by the third grade than children who attended only full-day kindergarten. The impact of pre-K plus half-day kindergarten was greatest for low-income children, English-language learners, Hispanics and African-American children. The report did not examine the quality of the programs children attended, so the impact appears to exist regardless of program quality.
The findings come at a time when cash-strapped districts are looking for ways to save money on early education. The report acknowledges that pre-K plus full-day kindergarten is the combination that produces the most academic gains for students, and cautions that half-day kindergarten alone produces the least benefit for students. A better strategy, the report suggests, is to add pre-K to existing kindergarten programs—either full-day or half-day—to produce gains for the most disadvantaged students.