Closer Look 2000
Entering Kindergarten: A Portrait of American Children When They Begin School
Noncognitive Aspects of School Readiness
What range of skills do kindergarten teachers encounter?
The findings from America's Kindergartners (West, Denton, and Germino-Hausken 2000) provide a profile of what beginning kindergartners know and can do. Most first-time kindergartners have basic reading and mathematics skills, basic social skills, and are healthy. In addition to this news, America's Kindergartners found that the diverse population of children entering school demonstrates a considerable range of knowledge and skills.
Some kindergartners have advanced skills
Sizable minorities of kindergartners start school with early reading or mathematics skills that are one or two proficiency levels higher than the skills of the modal kindergartner. Small numbers come to school with very advanced skills, three or four proficiency levels higher than most. For example, the ECLS-K found that:
- Twenty-nine percent of kindergartners can do more than recognize letters by name: they can associate them with sounds at the beginning of words. Seventeen percent can associate letters with sounds at the end of words as well.
- Two percent of pupils (1 in 50) begin kindergarten able to read simple sight words, and 1 percent are also able to read more complex words in sentences. These children already know how to read.
- Twenty percent of kindergartners can do more than count and read single-digit numerals: they can read two-digit numerals, identify the ordinal position of an object in a series, determine the next number in a sequence, and solve simple word problems.
- Four percent of pupils begin kindergarten able to solve addition and subtraction problems. These children are already doing arithmetic.
Some kindergartners have skills that lag behind
Most first-time kindergartners can recognize some single-digit numerals, identify simple geometric figures, and count to 10. A majority can recognize all single-digit numbers, count beyond 10, identify the similarities in patterns, and compare the relative lengths of objects using nonstandard units. However, many children still do not have these skills at the beginning of kindergarten. The results of the ECLS-K indicate that, among entering kindergartners:
- Eighteen percent cannot demonstrate familiarity with the conventions of print: they do not know that English print is read from left to right and from top to bottom or where a story ends.
- Thirty-four percent cannot identify letters of the alphabet by name: they are not yet at the first level of reading proficiency.
- Forty-two percent cannot count 20 objects, read more difficult single-digit numerals, and judge the relative lengths of several rod-like objects; however, most of these pupils (36 percent of all children) can count 10 objects and read easier numerals.
- Six percent cannot count 10 objects and identify simple numerals and shapes: they are not yet at the first level of mathematics proficiency.