School Readiness, Full-Day Kindergarten, and Student Achievement

An Empirical Investigation

by Vi-Nhuan Le, Sheila Nataraj Kirby, Heather Barney, Claude Messan Setodji, Daniel Gershwin

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Abstract

Recent research shows that large gaps exist, even before children enter kindergarten, in their school readiness. Because the skills and knowledge that children have upon entering school predict later achievement, this is an issue of serious concern to educators and policymakers. To address these differences in school readiness, some advocate full-day kindergarten; but critics say the costs and uncertainties about the benefits of full-day kindergarten should rule it out. Using longitudinal survey data to examine how children’s skills and knowledge at kindergarten entry predict achievement in later grades, this study addresses two research questions: the relationship between school readiness skills at kindergarten entry and reading and mathematics achievement through the fifth grade, and kindergarten program factors that predict nonacademic school readiness skills. Findings show that both academic and nonacademic school readiness skills at entry to kindergarten were significantly related to reading and mathematics achievement in fifth grade. As in earlier studies, these findings suggest that full-time kindergarten programs may not enhance achievement in the long term. Investing in developing the nonacademic school readiness skills of minority children at an early age may raise overall achievement and may narrow the achievement gap between minority and white students. Home background variables, including family involvement and resources, predicted nonacademic school readiness; child participation in extracurricular activities is also associated with development of these readiness skills. To guide future decisions on effective programs, cost-benefit analyses should be conducted to compare full-day kindergarten to other interventions that claim to enhance nonacademic readiness.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Data and Methodology

  • Chapter Three

    Descriptive Statistics for the Variables Used in This Analysis

  • Chapter Four

    Estimation Results: School Program Characteristics, Student Achievement, and School Readiness Skills

  • Chapter Five

    Discussion and Policy Implications

  • Appendix A

    Scale Items and Reliability Estimates

  • Appendix B

    Descriptive Statistics of Scales for Waves 2–5

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The research described in this report was conducted within RAND Education and was supported by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations.

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