Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Effects of Full- and Half-Day Schedules of an Urban, Prekindergarten Program

Saturday, November 14, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Brandt A. Richardson1, Nicole E. Smerillo1, Judy Temple2 and Arthur J. Reynolds3, (1)University of Minnesota, (2)University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, (3)Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota
High-quality prekindergarten is one effective piece in the larger strategy to close the achievement gap and improve outcomes for children and families. However, with limited resources available for publicly-funded Pre-K, it is important to understand which types of programs will result in the maximum benefits for children. Of great debate is whether additional public dollars should be invested to provide full-day versus half-day prekindergarten programs, especially for children experiencing poverty. With full-day programs providing a schedule of at least 6 hours per day/five days per week and half-day programs offering 2.5-3 hours per day, children who attend full-day programs receive at least twice the weekly dosage of classroom time than children who attend half-day programs.  Current research indicates that this double dose is associated with increased early literacy and math achievement for full-day children over their half-day and non-attending peers (Loeb et al., 2007; Valenti & Tracey, 2009), but the results are mixed. The differing effects of full- and half-day schedules for three- and four-year-old children, particularly those in high-poverty settings, are also not well understood.

The Child-Parent Center (CPC) program is a PreK–third grade school reform model centered on the provision of a high-quality prekindergarten program which focuses on increasing early achievement through small classes, parent involvement, and continuity of curriculum and leadership in the early elementary years. In 2012, the Midwest Child-Parent Center Expansion (MCPC) implemented the CPC model in new and historic sites throughout Chicago and expanded services to cities in Illinois and Minnesota with some sites offering full-day Pre-K and others offering half-day schedules. Although the literature on the effectiveness of the original program is extensive, little has been published on the impact of the expansion program.

The current study analyzes the impacts of this high-quality Pre-K program by dosage group, comparing effects of full-day, half-day, and no Pre-K. Research published in JAMA (Reynolds et al., 2014) evaluated the link between full-day and half-day Pre-K, but we propose a methodology that follows recent developments in using propensity score weighting to estimate the dosage effects of the CPC program. In this data set, children were not randomly assigned to full- or half-day schedules, introducing a potential source of selection bias. Employing propensity score analysis to predict the probability of dosage level, we can potentially minimize this source of bias.

Using a sample of 2,630 predominantly low-income, three- and four-year- old children in urban Chicago, we analyze the impacts of full- and half-day schedules on school readiness, parent involvement, and attendance rates. We also examine the impacts of dosage effects by subgroup, including three- versus four-year-olds. Preliminary results suggest that full-day students score higher on measures of early achievement than both their half-day and no-prekindergarten peers; half-day students also score higher than the no Pre-K group. Although both half-and full-day schedules of the CPC program provide benefits to the children who attend, full-day programs can make a significant difference above and beyond half-day programs for low-income, urban students.