A study released by the School of Community Health Sciences and partners at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas suggests that a full-day kindergarten program produces better academic results as well as longer, healthier lives for participating students.
The findings suggest that many students who took part in a full-day kindergarten program go on to attain higher levels of education throughout their lives compared to those who do not. People with more education typically follow healthier dieting tips, which includes exercising, eating healthier and not participating in activities such as smoking. As a result, they have a decreased risk of obesity, cancer, heart disease, and as such, a longer life expectancy.
In addition, evidence was found that suggests full-day kindergarten programs result in higher math and reading test scores than half-day programs. Researchers found this to be especially true for Black, Hispanic, English-language learners, and low-income students. A full-day program also offers increased access to regular meals, which is also found to lead to increased academic performance.
Researchers offered a number of recommendations such as providing evidence-informed school-based nutrition education and physical education requirements from an early age in the hopes of creating positive eating habits and health that would last well beyond adolescence.
“As Nevada considers its K-12 education system, it’s important to think how health fits into the picture. Decisions made about full-day kindergarten may have health effects, too,” said Max Gakh, an HIA team member and scholar in residence at UNLV’s School of Community Health Sciences. “There is that connection to health, which is important to be aware of for children and possibly into adulthood as well.”
Although a full-day kindergarten program has been offered throughout the state for almost a decade now, the topic is still an on-going debate at both the state and national levels. This past session saw state lawmakers vote to push millions of dollars into the expansion of statewide full-day kindergarten programs.
The study found that 87% of public school students in Nevada enrolled in kindergarten have access to either a publicly-funded or tuition-based full-day program.
The idea is not singular to Nevada. Parents in Rhode Island are pushing for the Tiverton School Committee to reverse its recent decision to cancel plans to expand the town’s kindergarten program into a full-day program this fall, arguing that doing so would cause their children fall behind in educational and social development.
As parent Michael DeCotis said, “I don’t want to have a parent-teacher conference in 2017 telling me that my child is not living up to Common Core standards because she only had half of an education her kindergarten year.”