University of Victoria The topic of full-day kindergarten (FDK) versus half-day kindergarten (HDK) is an ongoing debate that has been argued in places from local school board meetings to the government of Canada. Many people feel that the 1.5 billion dollar a year price tag for FDK is not worth the failings in emotional maturity, communication skills, general knowledge or the exhaustion from full-day instruction as some enter as young as 3 years old (Maclean’s 2013, 2006). However, the benefits of increased social interactions, boosted proficiency in reading, writing and the arts are priceless in the development of bright young minds. Especially for those who are less unfortunate, who come from low-income and minority families as they are often behind in language, cognitive, and social development compared to higher-income children (Hahn et al. 2014). Poverty is on the rise and increasing and “Poor children lag behind their peers in many ways beyond income: they are less healthy, trail in emotional and intellectual development, and are less likely to graduate high school” (Eldelman 2014, p. 39-40). Attending FDK provides children with numerous opportunities to succeed and make changes later in life but only if the programs contain low student – teacher ratios, and differentiated instruction is provided throughtout schooling. If FDK programs lack in any way from the above criteria, the benefits fade quickly and the 1.5 billion dollar price tag quickly becomes a waste of valuable time and money.
Students in a FDK program are getting a head start in the classroom, in reading, vocabulary, literacy, mathematics, and social skills. Children in FDK scored higher compared to HDK programs on literacy, numeracy and social skills (Hahn et al. 2014, 2006, 2007, & 2008). The biggest danger is that over time, they have been shown to drastically decrease. DeCicca 2007, found that the gains diminished throughout the first grade. The question becomes, why? Teachers tend to spend the majority of their time helping students with minimal curricula criteria at the expense of working equally hard with students who are above average (Wolgemuth, Cobb, Winokur, Leech & Ellerby 2006). Therefore due to lack of attention, the higher achieving students gains at the end of kindergarten tend to fade over the following few years. Teachers should therefore make it a priority to provide differentiated instruction to ensure all students have the equal opportunity to advance, providing teachers with insight on how “both the individual and the group are developing” (Wertsch 2005, p. 149). It would also provide opportunity for teachers to plan based on students strengths, creating opportunities for students to experience meaning, worth and make connections with what they are learning (White 2007). The ratio of students – teacher is also a key factor for success of FDK. Zvoch, Reynolds & Parker 2008, found that small class size (<20 students) demonstrated twice that in literacy compared to their HDK peers but larger class sizes (>24 students) illustrated the opposite effect on literacy acquisition. Thus illustrating the importance of class size on learning and children’s success for a brighter future. When class sizes are smaller, teachers have more time to focus on what students can achieve rather than what they cannot, allowing teachers to observe each student’s competentancy and ability to problem-solve with or without help of an adult, making differentiation that much easier (Cech 2010).
Full day kindergarten has the potential to enhance and enrich children’s academic achievement if it contains low student – teacher ratios and differentiated instruction is applied throughtout the school years. Without meeting this criteria, the benefits of increased literacy, numeracy, reading and social skills quickly declines