Is full-day or part-day preschool best for school readiness?

February 1, 2015

A comparison of the benefits of a 3-hour and a 7-hour daily preschool program found that compared with a shorter day, full-day preschool was associated with increased school readiness skills in 4 areas.

A comparison of the benefits of a 3-hour and a 7-hour daily preschool program found that compared with a shorter day, full-day preschool was associated with increased school readiness skills in 4 areas. Full-day preschool also was tied to better attendance and fewer chronic absences.

The study was conducted in 11 schools in Chicago, Illinois, that primarily serve children from low-income homes. The 932 youngsters, who were aged 3 and 4 years, were enrolled in either the full-day or part-day Child-Parent Center Education Program, a school-based public program that provides comprehensive educational and family services.

The program’s educational components emphasize acquisition of basic skills in language and literacy, math, and socioemotional development. The parent component includes education, parental involvement (such as classroom volunteering), and health and nutrition services.

At follow-up after the end of preschool, full-day participants showed significant increased school readiness skills in language, math, socioemotional development, and physical health compared with part-day participants. Full-day participation also increased attendance and reduced chronic absences by 26% to 45% over part-day services, although parental involvement was similar in the 2 groups.

Finally, the longer-day preschool program was associated with higher rates of mastery at or above the national average in literacy, math, and socioemotional and language development (Reynolds AJ, et al. JAMA. 2014;312[20]:2126-2134).

Ms Freedman is a freelance medical editor and writer in New Jersey. Dr Burke, section editor for Journal Club, is chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Agnes Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. The editors have nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that may have an interest in any part of this article.