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Knowledge and skills at kindergarten

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Academic Knowledge and Skills of First-Time Kindergartners

As children enter kindergarten, their reading and mathematics knowledge and skills differ by characteristics such as their age, race/ethnicity, poverty status, and child care history. Data for this fact are from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 201011 (ECLS-K: 2011). Data were collected on kindergartners' overall achievement in reading and mathematics in the fall and spring of kindergarten, and in science in the spring of kindergarten using individually administered direct assessments. The data used for this section are for ECLS-K:2011 students who were first-time kindergartners in the fall of 2010.

Reading, Mathematics, and Science Assessments

Assessment scores varied by first-time kindergartners' age and sex. For instance, older first-time kindergartners scored higher, on average, than their younger classmates on the reading, mathematics, and science assessments in the fall of kindergarten. Additionally, females tended to score higher than males on the reading assessment. There were no measurable differences between males' and females' mathematics and science assessment scores.

With each level of parental education, reading, mathematics, and spring science scores increased. For example, first-time kindergartners with at least one parent who had completed a bachelor's degree had higher mathematics scores, on average, than did their peers who did not have any parent completing high school.

Scores on the assessments also differed by race/ethnicity. Asian first-time kindergartners had higher fall reading and mathematics scores than their peers in all of the other racial/ethnic groups. In addition, White kindergartners had higher fall reading and mathematics scores than their Black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native classmates, and Black kindergartners outscored Hispanic kindergartners on both of these assessments. On the spring 2011 science assessment, White kindergartners had higher scores than their classmates in other racial/ethnic groups, with the exception of American Indian/Alaska Native kindergartners for whom the apparent difference was not significant. In addition, American Indian/Alaska Native kindergartners had higher spring science scores than Black, Hispanic, and Pacific Islander kindergartners; Asian kindergartners also had higher scores than Black and Hispanic kindergartners.

First-time kindergartners' fall reading and mathematics skills also differed with respect to their primary care arrangements in the year prior to kindergarten. For example, children who had not received any nonparental care on a regular basis and those whose primary care arrangement was home-based care with a relative had lower fall reading scores than children who attended home-based nonrelative care, attended center-based care, or had multiple care arrangements.

In the 201011 school year, first-time kindergartners whose primary home language was English scored higher on the reading, mathematics, and science assessments than their peers who had a non-English primary home language.

First-time kindergartners' assessment scores also varied with respect to poverty level. Reading, mathematics, and science scores were lower for children in households with incomes below the federal poverty level and for those in households at 100199 percent of the federal poverty level than for those in households with incomes at or above 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Approaches to Learning Behaviors of First-Time Kindergartners

The ECLS-K: 2011 also examined first-time kindergartners' approaches to learning behaviors, which were rated by their teachers. These behaviors include children's ability to keep belongings organized, pay attention well, persist in completing tasks, show eagerness to learn new things, work independently, adapt easily to changes in routine, and follow classroom rules. Approaches to learning ratings, or scores, varied by children's characteristics in the fall of kindergarten. For example, teachers gave higher ratings, on average, to females than to males on the approaches to learning scale. Scores on the fall approaches to learning measure were also lower for first-time kindergartners in households with incomes below the federal poverty level and for those in households at 100199 percent of the federal poverty level than for those in households with incomes at or above 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

SOURCE: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2013). America's Children: Key Indicators of Well-Being, 2013, The Kindergarten Year.

Academic Knowledge and Skills of Delayed-Entry and Repeating Kindergartners

Over the years, policies and practices have emerged that are intended to improve children's early school experiences by giving them more time to develop and mature. One such strategy is to purposefully delay a child's entrance into kindergarten, a practice known as "academic redshirting." A second strategy is to retain kindergartners who did not achieve the same level of academic or social skills as their peers in their first year of school and to have them repeat kindergarten. In the fall of 2010, about 94 percent of kindergartners were attending their first year of kindergarten: 87 percent were on-time kindergartners who started kindergarten within the age requirements set by their school system, while 6 percent were delayed-entry, or "redshirted," kindergartners and 1 percent were early-entry kindergartners, based on school system age requirements. In addition, about 6 percent of fall 2010 kindergartners were repeating kindergarten.

For the most part, delayed-entry kindergartners tended to outscore on-time and repeating kindergartners in reading, mathematics, and science in the 201011 school year. In mathematics, for instance, the fall 2010 scores were higher for delayed-entry kindergartners than for on-time kindergartners and repeating kindergartners. In addition, delayed-entry and on-time kindergartners had higher scores on the approaches to learning scale than repeating kindergartners.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). The Condition of Education 2013 (NCES 2013-037), Kindergarten Entry Status: On-Time, Delayed-Entry, and Repeating Kindergartners.

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