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Knowledge and skills at kindergarten

Question:
What information do you have on the knowledge and skills of kindergartners?

Response:
At kindergarten entry, children differ not only in their cognitive knowledge and skills but also in their approaches to learning behaviors, such as their ability to pay attention in class, follow classroom rules, complete tasks independently, and show eagerness to learn. In the early years, even before formal schooling begins, children from socioeconomically disadvantaged households typically have less access to resources that have been associated with learning, such as books and educational toys in their homes and quality preschool settings, than do students from more socioeconomically advantaged households. As these children enter school, they tend to exhibit positive approaches to learning behaviors less often than students from more socioeconomically advantaged households.

In the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (ECLS-K:2011), teachers of kindergarten students rated their students on seven approaches to learning behaviors: paying attention in class, persisting in completing tasks, showing eagerness to learn new things, working independently, adapting easily to changes in routine, keeping belongings organized, and following classroom rules. Teachers assigned a rating of 1 (never), 2 (sometimes), 3 (often), or 4 (very often) for each of the seven items during the fall kindergarten round of the ECLS-K:2011. Following data collection, an average of the seven ratings was calculated to represent a composite score for each child’s fall kindergarten approaches to learning behaviors.

In the fall 2010 kindergarten data collection, the average approaches to learning score for first-time kindergartners was 3.0, indicating that they “often” demonstrated positive approaches to learning behaviors. Overall, 26 percent of first-time kindergartners were rated by their teachers in the fall of kindergarten as demonstrating positive approaches to learning behaviors “very often” (average rating of 4), 49 percent were rated as demonstrating them “often” (average rating of 3), 24 percent were rated as demonstrating them “sometimes” (average rating of 2), and 1 percent were rated as “never” demonstrating them (average rating of 1). Students from low-SES households tended to have lower fall kindergarten approaches to learning scores (2.8) than students from middle-SES (3.0) and high-SES households (3.1).

Results from the previous Spotlight on kindergartners’ approaches to learning behaviors and academic outcomes indicated that the frequency of positive approaches to learning behaviors for first-time kindergartners (or their average approaches to learning rating) in the fall of kindergarten was positively associated with their reading, mathematics, and science scores in the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade. The same pattern was observed in the spring of 2013, when most of the ECLS-K:2011 students were enrolled in second grade. Students who had an average rating of “never” on the approaches to learning scale in the fall of kindergarten had the lowest reading, mathematics, and science scores in the spring of second grade, and students who had an average rating of “very often” in the fall of kindergarten had the highest scores in these subjects in the spring of second grade. For example, students who were rated by teachers as “never” demonstrating positive approaches to learning behaviors in the fall of kindergarten had an average spring second-grade reading score of 80 points, compared with an average score of 91 points for those with a rating of “sometimes,” 98 points for those with a rating of “often,” and 102 points for those with a rating of “very often."

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). The Condition of Education 2016 (NCES 2016-144), Kindergartners' Approaches to Learning, Family Socioeconomic Status, and Early Academic Gains.

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