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


+ Executive Summary

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


Approaches to Learning

General Health


Organization of the Report

+ Measures

Analytic Sample

+ Findings


List of Figures

Full Report (PDF)
Line Children's Reading and Mathematics Achievement in Kindergarten and First Grade

Children's experiences with school are almost as varied as the children themselves. Children's early education sets the tone for their later learning. Therefore, it is important to capture information on children's initial interactions with school; that is, their kindergarten and first grade years.

This report is the third in a series based on findings about young children's early experiences with school from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K). The ECLS-K is a multisource, multimethod study that focuses on children's early education beginning with kindergarten. The design of the ECLS-K has been guided by a framework of children's development and schooling that emphasizes the interaction between the child and family, the child and school, the family and school, and the family, school, and community. The ECLS-K includes measures of children's health status, socio-emotional, and student achievement and their family, school/classroom, and community environments.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the ECLS-K selected a nationally representative sample of kindergartners in the fall of 1998 and is following these children through the spring of fifth grade. The study collects information directly from the children, their families, teachers, and schools. The full ECLS-K base-year sample is comprised of approximately 22,000 children who attended about 1,000 kindergarten programs during the 1998-99 school year.

The first report, America's Kindergartners (West, Denton and Germino Hausken 2000), provided a national picture of the knowledge and skills of beginning kindergartners. It revealed that while first-time kindergartners are similar in many ways, differences exist in their knowledge and skills in relation to their age at school entry, race/ethnicity, health status, home educational experiences, and child care histories. The differences found at school entry were consistent with the differences in other national studies of older children (e.g., National Assessment of Educational Progress, National Education Longitudinal Study of 1998).

The Kindergarten Year (West, Denton, and Reaney 2001), the second report, showed that children considered at-risk for school failure acquired many of the basic skills in reading and mathematics during their first year of school that they did not have when they began the kindergarten year. Consequently, by the spring of kindergarten, the majority of these children knew their letters, numbers, and shapes; about half made the connection between letter and sound at the beginning of words; and almost three-quarters understood the mathematical concept of relative size (e.g., out of two objects, identify which object is longer). However, these same children fell behind their more advantaged classmates. Specifically, across the kindergarten year, the gap between disadvantaged children and other children widened in more advanced reading (e.g., recognizing words by sight) and mathematics skills (e.g., adding and subtracting).

This report, the third in the series, opens with a picture of these same children as first-graders. The first two reports laid the foundation for a basic understanding of children's achievement across the kindergarten year. Prior reports (i.e., The Kindergarten Year) specifically addressed the gains children made in reading and mathematics across the school year. This report focuses more on the status of children's reading and mathematics achievement in the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade.

To address the multifaceted nature of children's development, this report relates children's reading and mathematical knowledge and skills to child, family, and school characteristics. This report takes a broad view of child development and describes some of the basic relationships between children's literacy, their approaches to learning, and their general health status at kindergarten entry to their later kindergarten and first-grade reading and mathematics knowledge and skills.

<< back    >> next