A prescription for kindergarten: What's the proper dosage


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School of Public Policy


Public Policy

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There is not a standard kindergarten system in the United States (Parker, Diffey, & Atchison, 2016). Improving kindergarten programming to make all learners successful is required (Morrisey & Warner, 2007). Kindergarten programming is one area in which policy makers turn to the experts to help develop policy (White & Prentice, 2016). This dissertations adds to the general body of research related to kindergarten in the United States and informs policy decisions as it relates to the specific research questions addressed within. In the first study, I investigate how enrollment in full day kindergarten (FDK) influences reading and behavior. Using data from the ECLS-K: 2010/2011 cohort, results indicate that FDK (commonly defined as five to six hours a day of programming) is predicted to positively change reading scores in kindergarten in co-variate and fixed effects modeling, but these results are not present in models that use instrumental variables. No statistically significant relationship exists between FDK and the spring of first-grade reading standardized scores. In addition, I found no statistically significant relationship between instances of disruptive or internalizing behavior in the kindergarten or first-grade classroom and FDK participation. In the second study, I demonstrate that there is a statistically significant relationship between access to unstructured time (e.g. free play indoors, free play outdoors, days per week of recess, times per day of recess, time for child-selected activities, and lunch) and reading gains in kindergarten. There is also a statistically significant relationship between instances of disruptive behavior in the kindergarten classroom and opportunities for unstructured times during the school day with a non-random distribution between groups. State policies surrounding full versus half-day kindergarten, and district or school-level policies concerning the unstructured portions of the kindergarten day are informed by this work.