Skip Navigation
small NCES header image

Knowledge and skills of young children

Question:
Do you have information on the knowledge and skills of young children?

Response:
The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), provides information on children when they were infants (at about 9 months old, in 200102), when they were toddlers (at about 2 years old, in 200304), and again when they were preschoolers (at about 4 years old, in 200506). The assessments for 9-month-olds provide information on cognitive skills, including exploration, verbalizations, making simple gestures, and problem solving, and on motor skills, including coordination, sitting, prewalking, standing alone, skillful walking, and balance. The assessments for 2-year-olds provide information on cognitive skills, such as communication, listening comprehension, object discrimination, and knowledge of counting words or quantities; and on motor skills, such as skillful walking, balance, fine motor control, walking up and down stairs, alternating balance, and motor planning. Preschool-age assessments provide information on language, literacy, mathematics, color identification, and fine motor skills.

Nine-month-olds in poverty had lower proficiency levels in 3 of 5 cognitive skills, compared with children at or above poverty, although observed differences were less than 4 percentage points. For example, 81 percent of children in poverty were proficient in exploring purposefully, compared with 84 percent of those at or above poverty. For motor skills, no measurable differences were found between 9-month-olds in poverty and those at or above poverty.

In contrast to patterns found among 9-month-olds by poverty status, significant differences in all cognitive skills were found for 2-year-olds. For example, 29 percent of 2-year-olds in poverty demonstrated proficiency in listening comprehension, compared with 39 percent of those at or above poverty, and 55 percent of those in poverty were proficient in expressive vocabulary, compared with 67 percent at or above poverty. Concerning proficiency in motor skills among 2-year-olds, however, no measurable differences were found by poverty status.

Differences in proficiency in cognitive skills by poverty status observed when children were 2 years old held when they were 4 years old. Twenty percent of 4-year-olds in poverty were proficient in letter recognition, compared with 37 percent of their peers at or above poverty. Forty-five percent of 4-year-olds in poverty demonstrated proficiency in numbers and shapes, compared with 72 percent of their peers at or above poverty.

For 9-month-olds, there were few differences in cognitive skill proficiencies for most racial/ethnic groups. While differences were found for motor skills among 9-month-olds by race/ethnicity, no single group demonstrated consistently higher proficiency than others across all skills. In contrast, smaller percentages of Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native 2-year-olds demonstrated proficiency in all cognitive skills than did their peers who were White, Asian, or of more than one race. For motor skills among 2-year-olds, few differences were found by race/ethnicity.

Generally, smaller percentages of Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native 4-year-olds demonstrated proficiency in various cognitive skills than did their peers who were White, Asian, or of more than one race. Additionally, smaller percentages of 4-year-old Blacks (55 percent), Hispanics (51 percent), and American Indians/Alaska Natives (40 percent) showed proficiency in numbers and shapes, compared with Whites (73 percent), Asians (81 percent), and children of more than one race (65 percent).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2009). The Condition of Education 2009 (NCES 2009081), Indicator 3.

Related Tables and Figures:  (Listed by Release Date)

Other Resources:  (Listed by Release Date)


Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey

or

No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.
National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education