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Status and Trends in the Education of American Indians and Alaska Natives: 2008

NCES 2008-084
September 2008

Motor and Cognitive Skill Development


At about 9 months of age, there was no measurable difference between the motor and cognitive skills of American Indian/Alaska Native children and children of other races/ethnicities; however, at 2 and 4 years of age, some differences were detected between American Indian/Alaska Native children and the total population.

Figure 4.1a. Percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native children and all children demonstrating specific cognitive and motor skills at about 9 months of age: 2000–01
Percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native children and all children demonstrating
specific cognitive and motor skills at about 9 months of age: 2000–01
NOTE: Estimates weighted by W1C0. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) sampled children born in 2001 and was designed to collect information about them for the first time when the children were about 9 months of age (i.e., 8 to 10 months). Data are graphed using unrounded estimates while the value labels are rounded. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), Longitudinal 9-month–Preschool Restricted-Use Data File.

Figure 4.1b. Percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native children and all children demonstrating specific cognitive and motor skills at about 2 years of age: 2003–04
Percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native children and all children demonstrating
specific cognitive and motor skills at about 2 years of age: 2003–04
NOTE: Estimates weighted by W2C0. Estimates pertain to children assessed between 22 months and 25 months of age. Data are graphed using unrounded estimates while the value labels are rounded. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), Longitudinal 9-month–Preschool Restricted-Use Data File.

Figure 4.1c. Average overall literacy and mathematics scores for children at about 4 years of age, by selected race/ethnicity: 2005–06
Average overall literacy and mathematics scores for children at about 4 years of age, by
selected race/ethnicity: 2005–06
1 Includes letter recognition, in both receptive and expressive modes; letter sounds; and early reading knowledge and skills. Potential score ranges from 0 to 37.
2 Includes number sense, geometry, counting, operations, and patterns. Potential score ranges from 0 to 44.
NOTE: Estimates weighted by W3C0. Estimates pertain to children assessed between 48 months and 57 months of age. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), Longitudinal 9-month–Preschool Restricted-Use Data File.

The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) assessed children's early mental and physical development from birth through their entry into kindergarten. To date, information has been collected from a nationally representative sample of births in 2001, when the children were about 9 months of age (2001), about 2 years of age (2003), and about preschool age (age 4, 2005).

The assessments from when the children were about 9 months of age provide information on the development of children's motor skills, including eye-hand coordination as the child reaches for objects; sitting alone without assistance; prewalking (taking steps, and supporting own weight while standing, with assistance); standing alone (without assistance); skillful walking (walking without assistance); and balance (can balance in various positions). These assessments also provide information on the development of children's cognitive skills, including exploring objects in play; exploring their environment purposefully; jabbering expressively and making simple gestures; early problem solving (using reasoning to interact with objects); and naming objects (communicating with words).

When children were about 9 months of age, most of those assessed demonstrated skill in exploring objects and exploring purposefully. There was no measurable difference between the skills of American Indian/ Alaska Native children and the total population of children in exploring objects with purpose and jabbering expressively. Similar percentages of American Indian/Alaska Native children and all children about 9 months of age demonstrated exploring objects in play, early problem solving, and object naming skills. (appendix table A-4.1a). Further, at this age, no measurable differences were detected among the percentages of American Indian/Alaska Native children and all other children exhibiting the motor skills mentioned above.

The assessments from when the children were about 2 years of age provide information on children's ability to communicate with words (both receptively and expressively); children's listening comprehension (understanding actions depicted by a story, pictures, or instructions); the ability to match or discriminate objects by their properties (such as color); the knowledge of counting words or quantities; skillful (independent) walking; balance; fine motor control (such as grasping a pencil); walking up and down stairs; maintaining balance when alternating positions or in motion; and motor planning (replicating the motions of others).

At age 2, a smaller percentage of American Indian/ Alaska Native children demonstrated the specific cognitive skills of interest when compared to all children. For example, 74 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native children demonstrated receptive vocabulary, compared to 84 percent of all children. Forty-nine percent of American Indian/ Alaska Native children demonstrated expressive vocabulary, compared to 64 percent of all children. Similarly, smaller percentages of American Indian/ Alaska Native children demonstrated listening comprehension (25 percent), matching (21 percent), and early counting skills (1 percent), compared to all children demonstrating these skills (36 percent, 32 percent, and 4 percent, respectively) at this age. Similar percentages of American Indian/Alaska Native children and all children 2 years of age demonstrated the physical skills of interest, including skillful walking, balance, fine motor control, stair use, alternating balance, and motor planning (appendix table A-4.1b).

When children were preschool age (about 4 years old), the ECLS-B assessments obtained information on certain aspects of children's language, literacy, mathematics, color identification, and fine motor skills. Language knowledge and skills include both receptive and expressive vocabulary as well as an overall literacy score, which includes the child's ability to recognize a letter by either its name or its sound; phonological awareness, or an understanding of the sounds and structure of spoken language; and the understanding of what print represents and its function (top to bottom and left to right). Mathematics knowledge and skills include an overall math score which includes number sense, geometry, counting, operations, and patterns; and the ability to recognize single-digit numbers and basic shapes. Also, the percentage of children who can correctly identify five out of five colors and the ability of the child to use fine motor skills in drawing basic forms and shapes were assessed.

At 4 years of age, smaller percentages of American Indian/Alaska Native children demonstrated language, literacy, mathematics, and color identification skills, compared to all children. American Indian/Alaska Native children had lower scores, on average, than all children on the overall literacy and mathematics components. More specifically, a smaller percentage of American/Indian Alaska Native children were able to recognize letters by their shapes or sounds (19 percent) than all children (33 percent) within the literacy component, and a smaller percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native children were able to demonstrate proficiency in identifying numbers and shapes (41 percent) than all children (66 percent) within the mathematics component. Forty-three percent of American Indian/Alaska Native children were able to identify five out of five colors, compared to 64 percent

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