Full-Day Early Learning/Kindergarten is beneficial to staff, children and families according to preliminary Year 1 findings of a longitudinal research study led by Janette Pelletier, Director of the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) of the University of Toronto.
The study builds on Pelletier’s ongoing longitudinal study on Peel’s Best Start Program in which child care, kindergarten and parenting support are integrated into a full-day program for children. In 2010 Full-Day Early Learning Kindergarten (FDELK) was introduced. The experiences of 184 children in the Full-Day Early Learning Kindergarten program were compared with 183 children who did not participate in the integrated program (half-day kindergarten control group). The key findings demonstrated that the children in the FDELK were ahead of children in the control group in vocabulary and reading, in early reading, in phonological awareness, and in early number knowledge; and the senior kindergarten children but not the junior kindergarten children were ahead in writing. In drawing, all children in both groups depicted “play” and “social” activities more often than any other images. The FDELK children demonstrated more complex and detailed drawings than the control group.
The experiences of parents and staff were also surveyed. Key findings reported that parents of FDELK children rated their children as being “more ready” than parents of the control children for social, academic and physical activities. FDELK parents also reported the benefits of school-childcare-community programming integration, reporting that they experienced fewer daily hassles and stress factors when programs and services work together. Staff members surveyed reported the high-level and benefits of the implementation of integrated child care and kindergarten and FDELK with both ECEs and teachers feeling “strongly supported by their school community.” Results showed the staff team of ECE and Kindergarten teachers working well together to meet children’s and parents’ needs.
The principal investigator, Janette Pelletier, shares her plans for the study as it moves into year 2: “We will examine whether children who experienced full-day early learning/kindergarten will maintain these early advantages as they progress through school. The longitudinal design of this study will allow us to examine growth over time for children who have had more or less time in kindergarten and the associated benefits of an enriched program co-taught by the ECE/kindergarten teacher team.”
This ongoing study is being conducted in the Peel region in partnership with the Region of Peel municipality, the Peel District School Board and the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. The Best Start research began in fall 2008 and the FDELK research was added in fall 2010. In total, the research has included 638 children and families in 16 schools, as well as early learning staff and administrators at each site. The research is ongoing and will follow children until they reach grade three. The actual summary report is publicly available at http://bit.ly/KeyFindingsFDELKPeel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Sipos-Smith works in the communications department at OISE.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s May/June 2012 issue.