Panel Paper: Impact of a Statewide Full-Day Kindergarten Policy Expansion On Later Academic Skills

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 2:25 PM
Scott (Westin Georgetown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Chloe Gibbs, University of Virginia
In 2007, the Indiana General Assembly significantly increased state grant funds for the provision of full-day kindergarten, from $8.5 million in the 2006-07 school year to $33.5 million for the 2007-08 school year. The legislation sought to improve access to and availability of full-day kindergarten statewide with grants targeted directly to school districts and funding amounts determined based on kindergarten enrollments. This policy change corresponded to increases in provision and enrollment across the state. According to administrative data, full-day kindergarten enrollment in Indiana rose 20 percentage points from 2006-07, before the legislation, to 2007-08, the first year after the funding increase (Lovell et al., 2009). In addition, the number of school corporations providing full-day to the vast majority of their students (i.e., more than 80 percent) increased by 26 percentage points.

The existing literature on full-day kindergarten impact relies largely on the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K) to estimate effects for participants. These studies have generally found significant differences between full- and half-day kindergarten students on measures of literacy and numeracy at the end of the kindergarten year (Cannon, Jacknowitz, & Painter, 2006; Lee, Burkam, Ready, Hinigman, & Meisels, 2006; Votruba-Drzal, Li-Grining, & Maldonado-Carreño, 2008; DeCicca, 2007). However, these full-day advantages, as measured by cognitive skills, fade out rapidly over the first grade year and are no longer detectable in third grade (Cannon et al, 2006; Votruba-Drzal et al., 2008) or fifth grade (Vortruba-Drzal et al., 2008). This literature is limited in its ability to address differential selection by schools and districts into offering full-day kindergarten and differential selection by children and families into full-day kindergarten attendance. Moreover, the data pre-date large expansions across the United States in both the provision of full-day kindergarten and the availability of pre-kindergarten programming.

This study employs administrative data and specially collected student assessment data from a representative, statewide sample of first grade classrooms to assess the impact of a statewide policy change. Capitalizing on variation across schools in response to the full-day kindergarten policy change, I explore the impact of full-day kindergarten on first and third grade literacy skills to answer the question: Do the first and third grade literacy skills of students who completed kindergarten after the enacted legislation differ from those who completed kindergarten before the expansion? I use difference-in-differences and triple-differences estimators to assess the impact of the full-day kindergarten legislation on first and third grade literacy skills. Importantly, I leverage cross-cohort and cross-school variation in exposure to full-day kindergarten to assess the effect of this sweeping statewide reform. I specify the full-day kindergarten exposure variable in different ways and also include pre-policy change trends in high change and low change schools to provide evidence of a plausibly exogenous shock to full-day kindergarten exposure. Results of falsification tests on non-equivalent dependent variables are also included. Preliminary findings suggest that incremental increases in full-day kindergarten are not important for first and third grade outcomes, but that movement to provision of full-day for all seems meaningful.