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Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
NCES 2010-015
July 2010

Indicator 10. Proficiency of 4-Year-Olds

The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Birth Cohort of 2001 assessed a representative sample of children born in the United States in 2001. These children were assessed when they were about 4 years old on their ability to identify a letter by either its name or the sound it makes (letter recognition), and their ability to identify single-digit numbers and basic geometric shapes (number and shape recognition). Children who met predetermined thresholds on letter recognition or number and shape recognition were considered proficient in those subjects. This indicator reports on the cognitive abilities of these 4-year-olds, in terms of letter recognition and number and shape recognition.

Overall, 33 percent of the 4-year-olds tested in 200506 were proficient in letter recognition. Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native children had lower rates of proficiency (23 percent and 19 percent, respectively), while Asian children had a higher rate of proficiency (49 percent) than other groups. White children (37 percent) and children of two or more races (35 percent) had higher rates of proficiency than Black (28 percent), Hispanic (23 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (19 percent) children.

Approximately 65 percent of the 4-year-olds tested were proficient in recognizing numbers and shapes. American Indian/Alaska Native children had a lower rate of number and shape proficiency (40 percent) than Hispanic children (51 percent), Black children (55 percent), children of two or more races (65 percent), White children (73 percent), and Asian children (81 percent). Asian 4-year-olds had higher rates of proficiency than any other racial/ethnic group. No measurable differences in the proficiency rates were found between Hispanic and Black children.

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National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education