LA PUENTE – The expansion of a full-day preschool program is the latest example of the growing support for early childhood education. Since January, the Options-Rorimer Preschool in La Puente has operated a full-day, five-days-a-week preschool for 15 students. Funding by the California Department of Education and the Los Angeles Universal Preschool program has allowed for an additional nine children a chance to attend a 11.5-hour school day, learning shapes, colors, numbers and building social skills, said school officials. Cliff Marcussen, executive director and founder of Options, said the agency has operated similar full-day programs throughout the San Gabriel Valley for 12 years. Options programs are available in Covina, Manzanita and Hurley elementary schools. Enrolling a child in preschool in the U.S. is voluntary, and 40 states have state-sponsored Pre-K programs that enroll 4-year-old children. Illinois, Oklahoma and Georgia allow 3-year-olds to attend preschool, said Don Owens, spokesman for the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Owens compares the preschool system in the U.S. to a patchwork quilt – instead of a single system, states, churches and Head Start centers can all run preschool programs. While full-day programs may attract more students because it helps parents with day care options, educators and early childhood advocates say that curriculum and teaching is what matters. Aubrey Fine, professor of education at Cal Poly Pomona, said that in education circles, “K-12” is shifting to “P-12” or preschool to 12th-grade. “We recognize that early support for youngsters can have their benefit,” Fine said. Programs that certify teachers to work in preschools are scarce, Fine said, but universities are taking an active role in educating teachers who will go in to that field. Fine said in addition to identifying colors or shapes that children, even at an early age, still need to develop the skills to think, problem solve and relate to their peers. [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2108160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Marcussen said having full-day preschool targeting low-income families is important. “It gives parents a place that can care for and educate their children during the hours they work,” he said. Giving young children access to education at an earlier age is an area of growing focus with preschool a part of the solution. Studies on the effect of half-day versus full-day programs show that students who attended a full-day program performed better on math and literacy tests, including picture vocabulary and letter-word identification. Ellen Frede, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, which conducted one of those studies, said that the full-day program also allowed for teachers to build relationships with their students and even used snack time as a learning activity.