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.