Print this Article

Report Finds California Lags Behind Many States in Offering Full-Day Kindergarten

April 10, 2017

Editor’s note: EdSource, an Oakland-based nonprofit education policy research and media organization, released a report on March 30 that found California is lagging behind many states in offering full-day kindergarten programs. The executive summary of this report is printed below, click on the link at the end of the story to read the entire report online.)


Compelling research shows that attending high-quality, full-day preschool and kindergarten is associated with improved outcomes for students. These outcomes include greater school readiness in a number of areas including language development, higher academic performance in math and reading, and less likelihood of being retained in later elementary grades.

This EdSource report looks at the status of recent efforts in California to provide more children with access to full-day preschool and kindergarten. The report documents the following:

--Even though full-day kindergarten is not mandatory in California, school districts have made significant progress during the past two decades in offering full-day classes. Yet today only 70.5 percent of schools serving kindergarten-age children are offering full-day programs. California lags behind many other states that offer full-day programs to a larger proportion of their kindergarten students.

--Full-day kindergarten has emerged as a priority in the California Legislature. The 2016-17 budget requires State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to report to the Legislature by July 1, 2017, on the average costs of full-day and part-day kindergarten and “options for incentivizing full-day kindergarten, including providing differentiated funding rates for full-day and part-day programs.” The December 2016 Assembly Blueprint for Responsible Budget Priorities also calls for requiring full-day kindergarten across the state. But it is still state policy to require districts to provide only half-day kindergarten programs and to fund them accordingly.

--Since 2014, the California Legislature has also made a push to increase full-day programs in state-subsidized preschool for low-income children. Senate Bill 858, five which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in June 2014, stated clearly that “it is the intent of the state to provide all low-income 4-year-old children from working families with full-day, full-year early education and care.” But the majority of children supported by the California State Preschool Program, the largest state-funded preschool program, still attend part-day programs.

--The addition of transitional kindergarten in California, which was phased in beginning in fall 2012, has provided some children who may not have been able to attend full-day preschool the opportunity to attend a full-day transitional kindergarten class. During the current school year (2016-17), 66 percent of schools are offering full-day transitional kindergarten classes, according to California Department of Education figures. But these classes only serve a fraction of 4-year-olds in California, and do not make up for the shortage of full-day preschool slots.

--A key obstacle to expanding full-day programs is that, historically, preschool and kinĀ­dergarten funding has favored half- or part-day programs. School districts receive the same amount in average daily attendance funds whether they offer a half-day or a full-day kindergarten. Reimbursement rates for programs funded through the CaliforĀ­nia State Preschool Program are also more generous for part-day rather than full-day programs.

--Current data on exactly how many children are in part-day or half-day programs compared with full-day classes are hard to come by, making it difficult to assess just how much progress California is making in offering full-day programs to a greater number of children.

--Definitions of what constitutes half-day, part-day and full-day programs vary considerably, which also makes assessing the field difficult. More uniformity is needed when the terms half-day, part-day or full-day are used to discuss policy and programs for children.

In order to move the state toward its expressed goal of encouraging full-day attendance at both preschool and kindergarten, this report highlights the importance of several key strategies:

  1. The Legislature should maintain its focus on expanding access to full-day early learning programs for children whose parents seek expanded learning opportunities for them.
  2. In addition to the length of time children spend in a program, an equal emphasis should be placed on ensuring program quality, both in terms of state policies and local implementation practices.
  3. It should be a state priority to improve data collection and reporting on annual enrollments in state-subsidized full-day vs. part-day programs, and funds need to be allocated for this purpose.
  4. State and local agencies should consider all opportunities afforded by the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Local Control Funding Formula to expand access to full-day programs.
  5. Local, regional and state agencies should explore ways to more effectively share best practices to fully utilize expanded learning time, and to adapt pedagogical styles and strategies to take full advantage of the additional time children spend in a program.
  6. The state should examine its funding mechanisms and explore ways to reform them so that they encourage early learning providers to offer full-day programs.

Click on the link below to read the full report:

Source:  EdSource

A Total School Solutions publication.