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


+ Executive Summary

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


Organization of the Report

+ Measures

Analytic Sample

+ Findings


List of Figures

Full Report (PDF)
Line Summary

As children enter kindergarten for the first time, they bring with them different sets of knowledge and skills. Some children can already recognize the letters of the alphabet and others know their numbers and shapes. The knowledge and skills they bring with them, together with the development of their reading and mathematics knowledge and skills across the early years of school (i.e., kindergarten and first grade), potentially lays the foundation for their later learning and school experiences.

Some of the differences in children's reading and mathematics knowledge and skills by child, family, and school characteristics that are present as they enter kindergarten persist into the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade. For example, poor children consistently score below the national average in both reading and mathematics across the kindergarten year and into the spring of first grade. These results also suggest differences that are beginning to emerge by children's sex. By the spring of first grade, females are more likely to be reading-that is, understanding words in context; whereas, males are more likely to be proficient at advanced mathematics-that is, multiplication and division. However, some differences do seem to wane. For example, in both reading and mathematics, Hispanic children's scores tend to move upward toward the national mean over these two school years. The longitudinal nature of the ECLS-K will enable researchers to track these differences in terms of children's third and fifth grade reading and mathematics performance.

Children who bring certain knowledge and skills with them to kindergarten are likely to be at an advantage in classroom learning compared to their peers who do not possess these resources. The descriptive analyses in this report show that children who have specific cognitive knowledge and skills, are read to frequently, possess positive approaches to learning, and enjoy very good or excellent general health perform better in reading and mathematics than those who do not have these resources. However, it is also important to appreciate that the relationship of these resources to children's reading and mathematics achievement across kindergarten and first grade were explored without controlling for other possible intervening factors, such as the poverty status of the family. Yet, even when the basic relationship of these resources to children's reading and mathematics achievement across kindergarten and first grade were explored while controlling for the family's poverty status and children's race/ethnicity, significant relationships still existed.

The descriptive analyses included in this report are intended to address certain hypotheses in the research concerning early childhood development (e.g., children who are read to frequently do better). At the same time, the analyses are intended to point to the need for more complex models. Such models would explore the direct and indirect effects of children's beginning kindergarten knowledge and skills to their later achievement. Specifically, it is important for researchers and policymakers to understand what works for which children. Therefore, future analyses will consider the experiences of poor minority children versus nonpoor minority children, or poor children who are read to frequently versus nonpoor children who are read to frequently. Finally, a deeper understanding of why some children demonstrate and possess early literacy skills, approaches to learning, and sound general health as they enter kindergarten and others do not-and the ways in which schools and teachers build upon these resources-is warranted.

This third report from the ECLS-K, in conjunction with America's Kindergartners and The Kindergarten Year, provides descriptive information on young children's achievement across kindergarten and first grade. The ECLS-K will continue to follow these children into third and fifth grades. The study will provide researchers not only with an understanding of how children's early literacy, approaches to learning, and general health status as they enter kindergarten shape their later achievement but also how these resources need to be maintained and further developed for continued scholastic success. Moreover, future reports based on the ECLS-K will explore the potential influences of specific classroom and school factors (e.g., class size, full-day and part-day kindergarten programs, teacher characteristics, school environment) and additional home influences (e.g., parenting style, parent involvement) on children's scholastic success. The valuable information collected through this study will help us better understand the early education and elementary school experience of our nation's children.

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