Kindergarten: Timing it right

TODAY, 62 PERCENT of children in the United States attend full-day kindergarten (versus half-day), but 28 years ago, that number was closer to 25 percent. While research shows that kids in full-day programs often outperform their half-day counterparts in reading and math, Oregon is one of the few states that does not fund a full-day option. Still, 45 out of the state’s 198 school districts offer the longer day—though sometimes parents must fork over a portion of the cost. Susan Castillo, superintendent of the Oregon Department of Education, hopes to change that with her “Ready for School” initiative, which would fund full-day K in every district by 2011. To find out which schools currently offer a full-day option, turn to our Progress Report (p. 93), and to figure out whether full- or half-day school is right for your kindergartner, heed the following advice from ODE’s chief policy officer, Patrick Burk. —Sally Powers

FULL-DAY K VS. HALF-DAY K

“Additional time is not about longer naps and snacks,” says Burk. A full day allows teachers to delve deeper into academics. David Douglas School District released a report last year that found full-day students—regardless of ethnicity, income level or English proficiency—outperformed half-day kids in every subject on state assessments through the first grade.

“Many parents consider having a half day with their child to be a real gift,” Burk points out. “It’s a key part of children’s development, because parents are the most important teachers in their lives.” But parents need to use that time working on developmental needs, he advises, like reading to their child or taking him or her to the zoo to learn about the natural world.