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Children's Reading and Mathematics Achievement in Kindergarten and First Grade

Acknowledgments

+ Executive Summary

+ Children's Reading and Mathematics Achievement in Kindergarten and First Grade


Questions

Organization of the Report

+ Measures


Analytic Sample


+ Findings

What Children Know, by Child, Family, and School Characteristics

Specific Reading and Mathematics Knowledge and Skills

Literacy

Approaches to Learning

General Health

Effects of Beginning Resources when Controlling Other Factors

Summary


List of Figures

Full Report (PDF)
Line Specific Reading and Mathematics Knowledge and Skills.

Though differences are evident in all five proficiency levels in reading and mathematics at any given point in time (i.e., fall kindergarten, spring kindergarten, spring first grade), this section concentrates on the differences children demonstrate in recognizing words by sight (sight words), words in context, addition and subtraction, multiplication and division in the spring of first grade.15 Females are more likely to recognize words by sight and to understand words in context than males. There is no difference by sex in terms of addition and subtraction; but in the spring of first grade, males are more likely than females to solve problems that require multiplication and division. So, while there are no overall differences by sex of the child, in the spring of first grade females are more likely to have mastered complex reading skills; whereas, males are more likely to have mastered complex mathematics skills.16

When considering the poverty status of children's families during the kindergarten year, first-graders from nonpoor families are more likely to recognize words by sight than first-graders from poor families. The same is true for addition and subtraction. Moreover, about twice as many first-graders from nonpoor families are proficient at understanding words in context and performing multiplication and division (the more complex skills) as first-graders from poor families (tables 1 and 2).

Differences by children's race/ethnicity are also apparent. White children are more likely than Black or Hispanic children to recognize words by sight, understand words in context, solve addition and subtraction problems, and solve multiplication and division problems. Asian children are more likely than Black or Hispanic children to recognize words by sight, understand words in context, and solve multiplication and division problems. In the spring of first grade, Hispanic children are more likely than Black children to demonstrate proficiency in these particular reading and mathematics areas17 (tables 1 and 2).

The differences in specific knowledge and skills by school type echo the differences described above in children's overall reading and mathematics scores. In the spring of first grade, children who attended private school during their kindergarten year are more likely than children who attended public school during their kindergarten year to demonstrate proficiency in sight words, words in context, addition and subtraction, and multiplication and division. They were also more likely to be proficient in these skills when they entered kindergarten (tables 1 and 2).

What is the relationship between children's early literacy, approaches to learning, and general health status as they enter kindergarten and their spring kindergarten and first grade reading and mathematics achievement?

In order to answer this question, this section of the report examines three sets of relationships: (1) the relationship of children's reading and mathematics literacy at kindergarten entry to their spring kindergarten and first grade achievement; (2) the relationship of children's approaches to learning at kindergarten entry to their spring kindergarten and first grade achievement; and (3) the relationship of children's general health at kindergarten entry to their spring kindergarten and first grade achievement (see table 5 for information on children's literacy, approaches to learning, and general health).

Children's spring kindergarten and spring first grade reading and mathematics achievement is presented in two ways. First, children's spring kindergarten and spring first grade overall reading and mathematics achievement (i.e., t-scores) is examined by children's early literacy, approaches to learning, and general health status as they began kindergarten. In addition to reporting children's mean t-scores, the percentage of children scoring in each quartile of the t-score distribution (i.e., lowest 25 percent, 26-50 percent, 51-75 percent, 76-100 percent) is reported. Oftentimes, the greatest differences are at the tails of the distribution (e.g., lowest 25 percent, highest 25 percent) (see West et al. 2000). Second, information on the percentage of children who demonstrated specific reading and mathematics skills in the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade are examined by children's early literacy, approaches to learning, and general health status.

15 For a more detailed analysis of children's reading and mathematics knowledge and skills at the beginning of kindergarten and across the kindergarten year, refer to America's Kindergartners (West et al. 2000) and The Kindergarten Year (West et al. 2001).
16 An existing analysis based on the ECLS-K explores the possible sex and age interaction associated with the scholastic performance of young children during kindergarten. The analysis revealed no significant interactions (Reaney, West and Denton, 2000).
17 This finding should be interpreted in context. In order to be fairly assessed, children needed to demonstrate a basic proficiency in English. Thus, some Hispanic children were excluded from the assessment and the estimate does not reflect the entire population of Hispanic children in the sample.

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