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Preschool: First Findings From the Third Follow-up of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B)
NCES 2008-025
October 2007

Selected Findings

Demographics. Three-quarters (76.5 percent) of the children in the study were living in two-parent households; and nearly two-thirds (64.9 percent) of the children's mothers were either working full- or part-time (59.1 percent) or looking for work (5.8 percent) (table 1). Although three-quarters (74.6 percent) of the children studied were ages 48 through 57 months at the time they were assessed, 16.4 percent were younger, and 9 percent were older (table 1).

The assessment data that follow report results only for the three quarters of the children in the study who were ages 48 through 57 months at the time they were assessed.

Language. Receptive vocabulary refers to children's ability to indicate understanding of the meaning of words. For example, children were presented with four pictures and asked to point to the one depicting "painting." On average, females scored higher (8.8) than males (8.4) (table 3). Expressive language refers to children's ability to reproduce a narrative in their own words, using pictures as a guide. For example, children were told a short story and then asked to retell it in their own words, using the story pictures as a guide. On average, females demonstrated higher expressive language knowledge and skills than males (2.6 versus 2.3).

Literacy. Letter recognition refers to children's ability to identify letters of the alphabet. Phonological awareness is the understanding of the sounds and structure of spoken language. Conventions of print refers to understanding such aspects as the reading of English text from left to right. Children with two-parent families scored higher than children with single-parent families on the overall literacy scale score (13.7 versus 11.4) (table 4). This pattern is repeated in the results from assessments of letter recognition, phonological awareness, and conventions of print.

Mathematics. Mathematics refers to such aspects as children's ability to recognize numbers, shapes, estimate quantity, understand basic graphs, and solve simple addition statements. For example, children were presented with a number and asked to name the number. Sixty-five (65.4) percent of children demonstrated proficiency in numbers and shapes; the percentage of children demonstrating proficiency in numbers and shapes ranged from 40.1 percent among lower socioeconomic status (SES) families to 87.1 percent in higher SES families (table 5).

Color knowledge. For the color knowledge assessment, children were presented with a picture of bears of different colors. Children were asked to name the colors of five teddy bears (each correct answer receiving 2 points). For all of the colors that the child could not initially name, the assessor asked, "Can you find the [blue] bear?" (each correct answer receiving 1 point). Sixty-four (63.6) percent could identify five colors without being prompted to point to a specific color. Relatively more White (71.0) and Asian (70.7) children compared to Black (55.3) or Hispanic (50.2) children demonstrated this level of color knowledge (table 6).

Fine motor skills. This assessment refers to children's ability to draw basic forms. For example, when presented with a circle or a triangle, children were scored on their ability to copy the form. On average, females scored higher than males on the measure of fine motor skills (3.7 versus 3.1) (table 6).

Early care and education. Looking at the primary setting where children received the most hours of early care and education, 20 percent were in no regular early care and education arrangement; 44.8 percent were in a center-based (non-Head Start) setting; 12.7 percent were in a Head Start setting; 13.1 percent were in a home-based relative care setting; and 7.6 percent were in a home-based nonrelative care setting (table 7).


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