Dec 2013, Kids First Media Release: Kindergarten Research Cover-up Scandal

Parent group demands disciplinary action from Ontario Ministry of Education for misrepresenting studies showing negative impact for all-day Kindergarten

MEDIA RELEASE – time line included below

Parent group demands disciplinary action from Ontario Ministry of Education for misrepresenting studies showing negative impact for all-day Kindergarten

Smithville, Ontario – December 5 – Kids First Parent Association of Canada is calling for an apology from the Ontario government and disciplinary action to end to the misrepresentation of research on early learning and child care programs.

For a full year, in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to deceive the public, Ontario’s Ministry of Education sat on two studies it had commissioned from Queens and McMaster universities that showed lacklustre results for its $1.5 billion all-day kindergarten program. Then, on the first day of school this September, Education Minister Liz Sandals made a heavily publicized announcement about a new study, based on the other two, showing outstanding results.

Dr Charles Pascal, the government’s Early Learning Advisor, said it was “cartwheel time” and that the outcomes were “fall off the chart amazing”. “It’s like winning Olympic gold,” added Margaret McCain of the McCain frozen food empire and long-time backer of such policies.

Minister Sandals said the results are “nothing short of incredible.”

Incredible, yes.

In stark contrast to these statements, the McMaster report concludes “most of the outcomes are inconclusive, or even opposite to expectations,” and, “In almost all domains, [Senior Kindergarten] children in the No FDK [Full Day Kindergarten] group had better scores than children in either of the groups with FDK”.

The Queens study likewise found “mixed results”, including over-crowded classes, and poorer outcomes for Special Needs and Senior Kindergarten students in full day programs compared to those in half day programs.

None of the studies are peer-reviewed. The government did not actually release them until October 17 when they were quietly posted on the Ministry website, without press release or fanfare. The two universities studies were commissioned at a cost of $490,715.

Both university studies state the unimpressive results were found despite biases favouring full-day Kindergarten. Written parental consent was required which the studies acknowledge drastically lowered participation and creates biases. Moreover, the McMaster study admits that the use of teachers as the sole source of empirical data creates bias favouring the all day program because teachers’ “own belief in the program could have subconsciously affected the way” they answered questions.

Helen Ward, President of Kids First Parent Association of Canada says, “We are calling for the Ontario government to apologize and discipline those who misrepresent research. The Ministry and academics are manufacturing junk science and attempting to dupe the public. Who is accountable?”

Dr. Magdalena Janus, co-author of the McMaster report, assisted the Ministry in the effort to create a positive spin. Despite knowing the disappointing findings from her own study, and despite the fact that she did not author the Ministry’s report, in a September 4 CBC interview she endorsed the Minister’s claims, stating, “in schools where children went to full day kindergarten programs they did better than in schools where they only had half day programs”.

Dr. Janus’ role is particularly significant because she is the co-creator of the Early Development Instrument (EDI) which was the sole source of empirical data for all three studies. The EDI has been critiqued for being subjective, biased, and culturally insensitive. Moreover the purpose of the EDI is to influence policy rather than to provide objective data: it is described as the ‘tool’ in an EDI manual entitled A Toolkit for Change. The EDI Handbook explains that ?EDI scores can provide a powerful catalyst for influencing policy and programming.”

Another flaw the studies’ authors do not mention is the failure to ensure similarity between the groups in the area of language. There were significantly fewer English speakers in the groups in half-day programs, for example 52% English-only speakers in half-day Junior Kindergarten vs 74.4% in all-day. There were also far more French immersion students in the half-day groups, for example 15.4% in half-day vs 1.5% in all-day. Children who are learning a new language have many more challenges than those who are not. The failure to balance the groups would further bias findings to favour full-day programming.

A growing number of experts are critical of those who promote institutional early learning and child care policies, behaviour which UBC economist Dr. Kevin Milligan has characterized as “jaw dropping” and “gross misrepresentation” of evidence.

“For years, a few academics and allied bureaucrats have routinely misrepresented research in order to sell policy. They claim that the evidence demonstrates that we will eventually save money by investing in universal institutional early years programs. This is fraud. The costs far outweigh any benefits. Out of concern for children’s well-being, we are asking the Minister to take disciplinary action to halt this,” Ward concludes.

Kids First supports funding families rather than funding universal programs.


  • March 2010 – Ontario Government Hearings on Full Day Kindergarten – Kids First Parent Assoc submits evidence including Duke University study showing no benefits for these programs as well as reports on the Swedish system showing negative results.

  • October 2012 – McMaster report submitted to Ministry of Education

  • Fall 2012 – Queens report submitted to Ministry of Education

  • September 3, 2013 – Minister of Education Sandals announces release of study showing excellent results for all-day kindergarten program, but the study is not available

  • Sept 4, 2013 – Dr. Magdalena Janus, author of McMaster report, interviewed by CBC states positive results for all-day K

  • October 17, 2013 – Ministry posts all three studies on its website

  • October 20 – Dr. Magdalena Janus in an email to Kids First says that she was speaking about the government’s report and not her own in Sept 4 CBC interview because her own report had not been released

Contact: Helen Ward

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