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Effects of full-day kindergarten on the long-term health prospects of children in low-income and racial/ethnic-minority populations: A community guide systematic review

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Context: Children from low-income and minority families are often behind higher-income and majority children in language, cognitive, and social development even before they enter school. Because educational achievement has been shown to improve long-term health, addressing these delays may foster greater health equity. This systematic review assesses the extent to which full-day kindergarten (FDK), compared with half-day kindergarten (HDK), prepares children, particularly those from low-income and minority families, to succeed in primary and secondary school and improve lifelong health. Evidence acquisition: A meta-analysis (2010) on the effects of FDK versus HDK among U.S. children measured educational achievement at the end of kindergarten. The meta-analysis was concordant with Community Guide criteria. Findings on the longer-term effects of FDK suggested "fade-out" by third grade. The present review used evidence on the longer-term effects of pre-K education to explore the loss of FDK effects over time. Evidence synthesis: FDK improved academic achievement by an average of 0.35 SDs (Cohen's d; 95% CI=0.23, 0.46). The effect on verbal achievement was 0.46 (Cohen's d; 95% CI=0.32, 0.61) and that on math achievement was 0.24 (Cohen's d; 95% CI=0.06, 0.43). Evidence of "fade-out" from pre-K education found that better-designed studies indicated both residual benefits over multiple years and the utility of educational boosters to maintain benefits, suggesting analogous longer-term effects of FDK. Conclusions: There is strong evidence that FDK improves academic achievement, a predictor of longer-term health benefits. To sustain early benefits, intensive elementary school education is needed. If targeted to low-income and minority communities, FDK can advance health equity. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Literature Review

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