High-quality, early childhood education (ECE) experiences can improve children’s learning trajectories and produce long-term social returns. Yet, there is also evidence that ECE effects are variable and do not always persist. There is therefore a need to deepen the research base on what constitutes a ‘high quality’ ECE experience. This need exists on at least two levels—first, to identify which structural features reliably deliver effects, and second to capture the in-classroom processes those structures make possible. This paper provides a case study using an intensive in-classroom data collection effort—a total of 114 all-day class observations with every minute coded for content area(s) and activity type, and up to 14 repeated observations per teacher over a two-year period. In this instance, the data allow us to gain important insights into how teachers leverage time differently when one structural feature of preschool programming—length of the preschool day—changes.
Recommended citation: Denker, H. & Atteberry, A. (2021). "Where has all the time gone? Describing time use in full- vs. half-day pre-Kindergarten". Working Paper.
Abstract: Bassok, Latham, and Rorem (2016) document that kindergarten has become more academic from the pre- to post-No Child Left Behind (NCLB) eras. They write that the percentage of kindergarten teachers who report that they teach mathematics daily increased from 83% to 91% and that the percentage of kindergarten teachers who report spending time every day on nonacademic subjects like music, art, dance, theater, and foreign language instruction decreased by 18% between 1998 and 2011 (Bassok et al., 2016). These findings bring into question whether accountability pressures have driven kindergarten classroom time-use to become less developmentally appropriate over time. Indeed, some scholars believe that the increase in reading and math instruction found in the primary grades disrupts the development of social skills and narrows the curriculum (Koretz, 2017; Morton & Dalton, 2007; Russell, 2011). Since students first encounter high-stakes standardized tests at the end of third grade (Hurst, Tan, Meek, Officer, & McArthur, 2003; Pianta, Belsky, Vandergrift, Houts, & Morrison, 2008), one may anticipate that there would be a dramatic change in the way time is allocated between second and third grade; however, to our knowledge this has yet to be empirically documented. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K:2011), a longitudinal, nationally representative study of a cohort of students, we document how teachers report time is used, on average, in a second-grade day compared to third-grade day. Since national patterns may mask important variability across schools and districts, we will also explore whether the shift in time-use for the ECLSK:2011 cohort between grades 2 and 3 looks different across U.S. school settings. It may be the case that, in some places, the second and third grade experiences exhibit strong continuity, while in others there is a marked shift in the kind of school day students experience. If we hypothesize that decisions about time-use at this juncture are connected to accountability policies, we expect that schools under greater pressure might exhibit very different time-use patterns. We adopt a multilevel modeling approach to partition variance in time-use across grades in the same school, across schools, and across districts/states (Raudenbush & Bryk, 2002). Having a post-NCLB description comparing second to third grade time-use using the ECLS-K: 2011 nationally-representative data is valuable to researchers looking to compare how the time used within early elementary grades shifts towards more academic content. For policy-makers considering how to enhance high-quality curricula and teaching, understanding how the time-use transition from second to third grade varies across the country could illuminate differences between their programs and the “typical” student experience.
Abstract: Bassok, Latham, and Rorem (2016) document that kindergarten has become more academic from the pre- to post-NCLB eras. For instance, they note that the percentage of kindergarten teachers who report teaching mathematics daily increased from 83% to 91% between 1998 and 2011. The findings from their paper suggest that accountability pressure has driven classroom time-use to become more academic in students’ earliest elementary experiences. As the enthusiasm for test-based accountability wanes, the field must reflect on whether those policies had the power to affect what happens in schools and classrooms and—if so—whether those responses exacerbated or ameliorated outcome inequality. Existing research indicates that certain aspects of schooling do respond to accountability pressure, such as how teachers are assigned to tested and untested grades, teachers’ pedagogical practices, and their (narrowed) curricular focus (Grissom, Kalogrides, & Loeb, 2017; Jacob, 2005; Koretz, 2017). Other researchers find that schools with low-performing students often enact policy changes, specifically in regards to time allocation, and these changes are associated with achievement gains (Dee, Jacob, & Schwartz, 2013; Rouse, Hannaway, Goldhaber, & Figlio, 2007). We bring together these two lines of inquiry—the academization of time-use for young children and responses to accountability testing—by examining the shift in time-use between second and third grade (the earliest tested grade). We explore whether there is any apparent discontinuity in the allocation of classroom time from second to third grade that can be linked to testing for accountability purposes. To do so, we analyze ECLS-K:2011 teacher-reported time-use in all available elementary grades. Preliminary analyses suggest that the second-to-third grade shift in time spent on academics varies by subject in perhaps surprising ways. Moreover, this pattern differs between schools that did and did not make AYP the previous year. However, we also find that, among schools failing to make AYP, second-to-third grade time-use shifts are quite different in high poverty/minority schools than in their low poverty/minority counterparts. This differential response to accountability pressure may exacerbate existing opportunity gaps for young children.
Abstract: Prior research has examined how time is allocated in pre-kindergarten classrooms. This study builds on that work to describe the variability in observed and teacher-reported instructional time-use as it is correlated with student outcomes. Using multiple linear regression and data from a randomized control trial in a public-school district in Colorado, my preliminary results show that on average the proportion of time spent on reading and math is similar across full- and half-day pre-kindergarten classroom. On average, full-day classrooms spend a greater proportion of their time on napping and meals, while half-day classrooms spend a slightly greater part of their day on social studies/science, music/art, and play.
Graduate Teaching Assistant, Oklahoma State University, 2011
Supervisor: Dr. Susan Stansberry
Instructor for five sections of an educational technology course for undergraduates majoring in education. This course teaches pre-teacher candidates how to meaningfully integrate technology into standards-based lesson plans.
Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Colorado Boulder, 2020
Supervisor: Dr. Allison Atteberry
Teaching assistant for the second course in a two-course sequence intended to teach linear regression and the Stata program to incoming PhD students in the School of Education. Taught one weekly class lab, held weekly office hours, and provided feedback on assignments.
Graduate Instructor, University of Colorado Boulder, 2020
Supervisor: Dr. Benjamin Shear
Instructor of an introductory statistics course for incoming PhD students to the School of Education at CU. This course is intended to prepare doctoral students for their first-year quantitative coursework.
Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Colorado Boulder, 2022
Supervisor: Dr. Benjamin Shear
Teaching assistant for a multi-level modeling course. This course includes PhD student from across social science disciplines and walks through estimating and interpreting two- and three-level multilevel models using R. Answered questions and led group discussion in weekly class, held weekly office hours, and provided feedback on assignments.