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An Analysis of Full-Day Kindergarten in Washington State

All children deserve the best chance to succeed. It is their right and it is our responsibility. The Washington State Constitution enshrines “ample provision for the education of all children” as the primary duty of the state, and the people and their representatives bear this responsibility because it is critical to the welfare of our community.

Quality education lays the foundations for a thriving society: successful individuals, an informed and engaged populace, strong institutions, economic growth and vitality, and individual financial security. The last several decades have seen an abundance of research stressing the importance of the early years of a child’s education and extolling the benefits of quality early learning initiatives.

Full-day kindergarten is one such initiative. Full-day kindergarten results in increased academic achievement and school readiness for participants. It not only produces positive, long-term economic benefits for individuals and society, it also results in immediate returns for families, schools, and Washington State’s bottom line.

The Economic Opportunity Institute conducted an exhaustive literature review of local and national research, interviewed administrators of full-day kindergarten programs in Washington State, collected data from states across the country, conferred with staff from various local agencies and organizations, and reviewed laws and legislation on the topic. The goal of this policy brief is to distill the information gained through our inquiries and provide policy makers, opinion leaders, and interested individuals with a comprehensive analysis of full-day kindergarten in Washington State.

The key findings of this research are:

  •  Fewer than half of incoming kindergarten students are prepared for the challenges of the classroom. High levels of student unpreparedness are prevalent throughout Washington’s public education system, as evidenced by failure to pass elementary school assessments in reading and math and by the necessity for high school level remediation for incoming college students.
  • National and local research demonstrates that full-day kindergarten results in positive academic and social benefits for students. As compared to their peers in half-day kindergarten, full-day students perform at higher levels in the fundamental areas of reading and math. These academic gains made in the full-day classroom may also persist into later grades, bolstering overall early academic achievement. Further, full-day kindergartners are more socially and emotionally prepared for first grade than their counterparts in half-day classes.
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