It’s About Time: Evidence on Time Use and its Effects in Early Childhood Educational Contexts
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
The first paper in the panel presents some of the only causal results to date on the effects of full-day versus half -day prekindergarten. While a small body of evidence suggests that longer school days in preschool and kindergarten can have positive effects on young children’s academic achievement, this paper provides early estimates of the effects of full-day prekindergarten in a school district serving a large proportion of disadvantaged students. Results from this study will highlight the potential benefits (as well as costs) of a longer school day for young children.
The second and third papers in the panel provide descriptive evidence on how time is spent during the school day. The first of these two papers uses nationally representative survey data from Head Start teachers to explore whether time use and pedagogical approaches in Head Start classrooms have changed over a 15-year period. Results indicate that Head Start teachers have substantially increased time spent in whole class and small group instruction and have also increased time on literacy activities. These results are consistent with research on kindergarten classrooms over a similar timeframe (Bassok, Latham, & Rorem, 2016). The second of these two papers uses detailed data from over 50 full-day observations of kindergarten classrooms in New York City to describe the ways in which kindergarten teachers use their time. The paper documents that while kindergarten teacher do spend extensive time on literacy and mathematics activities, they spend very little time on other academic subjects and little time on gross motor and social and emotional learning. Preliminary results indicate that the largest portion of the kindergarten day is spent on transitions and meals.
Finally, the fourth paper in this session uses nationally representative survey data to analyze the effects of being in a multi-grade classroom on kindergarteners. Findings show that being in a classroom with younger students has negative effects on kindergarteners’ academic and cognitive outcomes. Results from meditational analysis indicate that these negative effects are largely driven by reduced time on academic instruction in these contexts.
Together the papers in the proposed panel provide new evidence, using a wide range of methodological approaches and disciplinary perspectives, on how time is used in early childhood settings, how time use has changed over time, and the effects of time use on student outcomes. Results from this session will help to inform policy and practice related to time use and classroom composition in early childhood education.