Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
  • This strategy can help address educational disparities and promote healthy childhood environments. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Providing full-day instruction: Full-day kindergarten is formal, school-based education for children ages 4 to 6. Programs are designed to mirror a first-grade class schedule, running 5 days per week and for at least 5 hours per day. School districts typically implement full-day kindergarten to improve students’ readiness for elementary school.

  • Improving academic readiness: Compared to children who attend half-day kindergarten, full-day students demonstrate greater gains in reading and mathematics achievement. Additionally, the benefits of attending full-day kindergarten appear to persist through middle school, with students from disadvantaged backgrounds seeing the greatest gains.

  • Preparing students behavioral expectations in elementary school: As the format of full-day kindergarten more closely resembles the elementary school schedule, children who attend full-day kindergarten may adjust more easily when transitioning into first grade. Additionally, the added instructional time provides kindergarten teachers more opportunities to teach students both behavioral expectations (e.g., how to transition between activities) and social-emotional skills.

  • Requirements vary by state: Policies and funding opportunities for full-day kindergarten vary by state. As of 2020, 21 states and the District of Columbia require school districts to offer full-day kindergarten. In states without the requirement, school districts can typically opt to provide full-day kindergarten, though state funding may be limited or unavailable.

Cost per Participant
Estimated $2,650 per student to expand half-day programs to full-day programs

Multiple studies with rigorous designs demonstrate that full-day kindergarten is a well-supported strategy for improving students’ academic achievement.

  • A 2016 systematic review identified full-day kindergarten as a scientifically supported strategy to increase academic achievement.
  • Engage community members: School districts should involve key stakeholders, particularly parents, in designing the shift to full-day kindergarten (e.g., placing parents on the transition team, hosting open houses). Engaging community members can build support for the transition, which can be especially important in communities without access to additional state funding for full-day kindergarten.

  • Conduct a space assessment: When shifting to full-day kindergarten, school districts require additional classroom space to accommodate the additional children present at a given time. Often, districts can meet the need for additional space in the short-run by repurposing non-classroom space (e.g., libraries), obtaining temporary facilities (e.g., mobile classrooms), or redistributing students or staff between buildings.

  • Prepare staff for full-day instruction: School districts shifting to full-day kindergarten should provide kindergarten staff with professional development opportunities to ensure effective implementation. As kindergarten reading achievement is a strong predictor of future academic success, school districts may include literacy development as a focus in these training opportunities. These development opportunities should begin in the Spring before implementation and assist staff in developing year-long curricular plans.

  • Prioritize small class sizes Young children benefit most from small class sizes, so school districts should maintain a student-teacher ratio of no more than 15 to 1 in kindergarten classes. In addition to a certified teacher, each kindergarten classroom should have a teacher assistant to ensure adequate adult supervision.