Goldwater Institute Releases Study on All Day Kindergarten

Goldwater Institute

Definitely a must reprint and read!

All-Day Kindergarten Failing as Education Reform
All-day kindergarten fails to improve Stanford 9 reading, math, language arts scores 

Goldwater Institute News Release
February 07, 2007

Phoenix—A report published today by the Goldwater Institute examines Stanford 9 test scores and finds Arizona kindergarten programs initially improve learning but have no measurable impact on reading, math, or language arts test scores by fifth grade.

The study, Putting Arizona Education Reform to the Test: School Choice and Early Education Expansion, by Matthew Ladner, Ph.D., vice-president for research at the Goldwater Institute, is the first of its kind to empirically test the relationship between Arizona kindergarten programs and later school achievement.

Governor Napolitano has made expanded kindergarten a key piece of her education reform strategy, saying:

The data is simply overwhelming that the combination of quality childcare and full-day kindergarten will reap rewards many times the financial investment we make now. Our children…will have higher academic achievement if we start them off on a stronger footing.

Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute, says, “This report demonstrates that all-day kindergarten is not an education reform strategy that policymakers can hang their hats on. All-day k delivers short-term benefits at best.”

The study analyzes test score data from schools throughout Arizona that offered all-day kindergarten or preschool programs during the 1999-2000 school year. In those schools, reading and math test scores for third graders are higher than those without all-day or pre-k. By the fifth grade, however, there is no difference in test scores between schools with and without these programs.

Dr. Ladner controls for the percentage of students in English Language Learner programs, students eligible for free and reduced lunch, student ethnicity, teacher experience levels, among other variables. The Goldwater Institute also examined the impact of all-day kindergarten on AIMS passing rates and found passing rates did not improve.

The study also measured the impact of competition from charter and private schools on public school test scores. Building on a 2001 study by Harvard University economist Dr. Caroline Hoxby, which found schools in Maricopa County facing competition for students from charter schools had faster student achievement gains, Dr. Ladner applied a similar methodology to schools in Pima County. 

Stanford 9 test scores show that during the 2001-2004 school years, students at Pima County public schools facing competition moved up in their Stanford 9 rankings faster than schools not facing competition. Schools facing competition made gains twice as large on the Stanford 9 math test than those not facing competition. In Stanford 9 reading scores, competition group schools gained an average of four national percentile points, while the non-competition group averaged less than one. 

“This report is not an indictment of kindergarten as an institution. It just makes clear that if policymakers are looking for an education reform strategy that has been proven to work, the search is over. Early education programs like all-day kindergarten and preschool do not deliver long-term academic improvement. Competition for students, however, increases achievement in the short-term through higher test scores and in the long-term through greater year-over-year achievement gains,” explains Dr. Ladner.

Download Putting Arizona Education Reform to the Test: School Choice and Early Education Expansion


  1. Despite what the media has touted for years, the stats show that early childhood education has been a dismal failure for all but the most abused and neglected children. States like New Hampshire that typically place at or near the top in test scores have shunned any public kindergarten for many years. There, private schools are the only option for parents intent on sending their children to kindergarten. This should come as no surprise.

  2. Unless the necessary support systems are in place to maintain the growth it is lost. The huge dollars spent on ADK could be used for targeted areas like reading specialist in the early grades where learning to read so they can read to learn can actually be impacted.

    If you are truly interested in education reform, reform that will affect student achievement and make our schools better stewards of our tax dollars, be aware of a bill in the Senate Ed Committee for next Wednesday. It would significantly shorten the timeline traditional public schools (not charter or private) must follow in order to non-renew a teacher. It currently takes over a year! Then at the end of the year, if they are terminated, they get a 30 day paid vacation while they decide if they want to take the district to court in order to get their job back. It is law, districts have no recourse but to follow it. Currently, it looks like O’Halleran (R) is soft on this one (he favors the teachers’ union after this last election) and his vote will be needed for it to pass.

    I respect and admire teachers, administrators, and all associated with the positive purpose of public education. I hold them all in high regard and do not for one minute think public education is the great evil that some may suggest. In fact, think it is the backbone of our democracy. I just have a hard time understanding when the adults became more important than the kids.

  3. Agree with Ann. The study shows gains through the third grade. The question should be: what in the heck is happening in fourth grade that negates the gain?

  4. There is not a simple answer to Walter’s question. From my vantage point in the homeschooling community, I can tell you that we don’t see the same degree of burn-out among our 4th graders that is sometimes observed in public, Charter, or privately schooled children. The challenge of our generation is how to manage the overabundance of choice and information that we struggle with daily. This societal frenzy cannot fail to affect children. I think they are tired, trying to live at an adult pace with little time for unstructured play, interaction with nature, fresh air, exercise and rest. Earlier and earlier starting ages for formal instruction could be contributing to the 4th grade drop-off noted by this study. Childhood is so short in comparison to an average life span. Perhaps some vital stages of development are being rushed by our culture that in earlier times were slower.

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