Arthur Reynolds, professor at the Institute of Child Development, and colleagues at the Human Capital Research Collaborative find in a new study that children who attend full-day preschool programs have higher scores on measures of school readiness and reduced chronic absences compared to those who attend part-day programs. The increased scores showed on language, math, socio-emotional development and physical health skills. The study’s findings have been published in the November 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Reynolds says that early childhood education programs have long been known to be key to preparing children for later school success. Now, however, he sees the bigger question to be the effect of increased learning time in early childhood education programs. “This is the first study to comprehensively examine the results of lengthening the preschool day and it has national implications, when only half of students who enter kindergarten each year are fully prepared,” Reynolds says.
The study also found that parents of children attending full-day preschool programs were better able to pursue their own career and educational opportunities, which made it more possible for their children to take part in the programs. The research focused on a group of about 1,000 predominantly low-income, ethnic minority children enrolled in the Midwest Child-Parent Centers (MCPC) for the full day (7 hours) or part day (3 hours) during the 2012-2013 school year in 11 schools within the Chicago Public School District. Reynolds is involved in the expansion of the MCPC in a federally-funded, targeted project, The Midwest Expansion of the Child-Parent Center Education Program, Preschool to Third Grade or “Midwest CPC Expansion” project.