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Full-Day Kindergarten

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Full-day kindergarten (Full-Day K) boosts children’s cognitive learning, creative problem-solving and social competence. Yet for many young children Full-Day K is a missing half step in the early learning continuum. Unequal access to publicly funded full-day and full-week high quality kindergarten programs means too many young children lose a critical opportunity to develop and strengthen foundational skills necessary for success in school and lifelong learning. All children should have guaranteed access to high-quality, publicly funded Full-Day K each day of the school week if they are to meet the learning and work-force challenges of the 21st century.

Full-Day Kindergarten in the States

Public education in America is built on the foundation of equal access for all children. But access to Full-Day K in reality is more akin to a game of chance in which the lottery of geography and income are the determinative factors, as our interactive map illustrates. Consider these facts:

  • In 2012, only ten states and the District of Columbia required by statute that school districts provide publicly-funded Full-Day K. An additional 34 states required school districts to provide half-day kindergarten, and six did not require districts to provide kindergarten at all.
  • The majority of states in the country did not require kindergarten to be the same length of day as the other grades in the system; and in some states full-day kindergarten was not funded at the same level as first grade. Instructional time for kindergartners varies from a half-day of 2.5 hours to a full-day of six hours.
  • Many children are only able to access Full-Day K if their parents pay tuition for the half of the day not covered by other funds, if they qualify for tuition assistance based on family income, the child is at risk of school failure, or if the school district voluntarily chooses to provide Full-Day K.

Find out the status of Full-Day K in your state. View our interactive map and download your state’s Full-Day K factsheet.

New Importance of Full-Day Kindergarten

Full-Day K can no longer be viewed as an optional add-on, enrichment or intervention program but must become a stable part of the early grade continuum. With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards in 45 states and the District of Columbia and grade-level assessments of student mastery scheduled to begin in 2014, kindergarten students are being held to new and more rigorous academic standards. While these standards are consistent across states, the number of instructional hours provided for kindergartners to meet standards varies dramatically from state to state and even from district to district within a state.

 Full-Day Kindergarten Videos

Thought leaders in early childhood development discuss the benefits of Full-Day K.

About the Speakers

Jerlean E. Daniel

Dr. Jerlean Daniel is Executive Director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the nation’s largest organization of early childhood education professionals working with and on behalf of children from birth through age eight. NAEYC is a leading voice on program and learning standards, teacher quality and professional development, curriculum and assessment, and other critical issues in the field.

Prior to joining the NAEYC staff, Dr. Daniel served as Chair of Psychology in Education, and Associate Professor in the Applied Developmental Psychology Program, in the School of Education, after serving as Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh. She was On-Air Faculty for “Heads Up! Reading,” an early literacy project sponsored by the National Head Start Association and the Council for Professional Recognition.

Dr. Daniel has served on a variety of committees including the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Re-Designation of Head Start Grantees, the advisory committee of the New Standards Project on Speaking and Listening for Preschool Through Third Grade, the Early Head Start Advisory Committee, and the Allegheny County Early Childhood Initiative. She currently serves on the board of Family Communications, Inc. and the Advisory Council for PNC bank’s initiative, Grow Up Great.

Dr. Daniel has written a series of articles on transitions for infants, toddlers, and children with difficulties in child care. She has also written about African American child rearing practices and children’s names. Dr. Daniel has been quoted in numerous national, regional and local newspapers.

Dr. Daniel was a child care center director for 18 years. During that time, she served at various times as a board member, Secretary, and President of the Pennsylvania Association of Child Care Agencies; President of the Pittsburgh AEYC; and Governing Board member and President of NAEYC.

Dr. Daniel holds a B.S. in Political Science, an M.S. in Child Development, and a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Pittsburgh.

Carol Brunson Day

Carol Brunson Day is recognized as a leader in the field of early childhood education.

She is currently the President of the National Black Child Development Institute, whose mission is to improve and advance the quality of life for Black children and families through advocacy and education. Before coming to NBCDI, she served for twenty years as the CEO and President of the Council for Professional Recognition, a Washington, D.C.-based association that serves as the home of the Child Development Associate National Credentialing Program, as well as the National Head Start Fellowship Program. Dr. Day was also the liaison for the international exchange between the schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy and the early childhood community in the United States.

Dr. Day sits on numerous national boards including Zero to Three Editorial Board, National Center for Professional Development and Inclusion National Advisory Panel, and T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center National Advisory Panel and has spoken at conferences and programs across the United States and internationally. She has authored publications on subjects such as professional development, diversity and multicultural education, and cultural influences on development, and has a long history of interest and expertise on African-American culture and heritage.

Dr. Day received a B.A. in Psychology from the University of WisconsinMadison, a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from the Erikson Institute in Chicago and a Ph.D. in Education from Claremont University in Claremont, California.

Lisa Guernsey

As Director of New America's Early Education Initiative, Ms. Guernsey focuses on how to create and scale up the best learning environments for children in their early years, from infancy through third grade. In her research and writing, she works to elevate dialogue about early childhood education by analyzing new findings in developmental psychology and spotlighting best practices in homes and classrooms, from infant-and-toddler care through the early grades of elementary school.

Ms. Guernsey edits and contributes to the Early Ed Watch blog and has been writing about education, technology and social science for nearly 15 years as a staff writer at the New York Times until 2002 and at the Chronicle of Higher Education in the mid-1990s. She has contributed to many national publications over the past several years, including her former employers and The Washington Post. In 2001 she was a media fellow at Duke University's Dewitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy, and in 2005 she was a journalism fellow in the Child and Family Policy Program at the University of Maryland. Her most recent book is Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children From Birth to Age 5, published by Basic Books in 2007. Ms. Guernsey holds a master's degree in English/American Studies and a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Virginia.

Thomas Schultz

Tom Schultz is Project Director for Early Childhood Initiatives at CCSSO in Washington, DC. Prior to joining the Council, Dr. Schultz worked on issues of early childhood standards, assessments, and accountability at the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Head Start Bureau and the National Association of State Boards of Education.