+ Executive Summary
Organization of the Report
Children's experiences with school are almost as varied as children themselves. 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). 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 two reports, America's Kindergartners (West, Denton, and Germino Hausken 2000) and The Kindergarten Year (West, Denton, and Reaney 2001), provided a national picture of the knowledge and skills of children at kindergarten entry and across the kindergarten year. Both reports revealed that while first-time kindergartners are similar in many ways, their knowledge and skills differ in relation to their age at school entry, race/ethnicity, health status, home educational experiences, and child care histories.
This report presents a picture of these children as first-graders.1 The first two reports laid the foundation for a basic understanding of children's achievement across the kindergarten year. This report continues the story by providing information about children's knowledge and skills in the first-grade year. The report looks at children's school performance in terms of their reading and mathematical knowledge and skills. 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. Whereas prior reports (i.e., The Kindergarten Year) specifically addressed the gains children made in reading and mathematics across the school year, this report will focus more on the status of children's reading and mathematics achievement in the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade. Taking a broad view of child development, this report explores how children's literacy, approaches to learning, and general health status at kindergarten entry relate to their spring kindergarten and first grade reading and mathematics knowledge and skills.
When conceptualizing literacy in young children, since young children's reading and mathematical ability are highly related, it is important to consider not only their reading skills but also their reading environment and their mathematical reasoning skills (West, Denton, and Germino Hausken 2000; National Research Council 1989; National Institutes of Health 2000). Recognizing numbers (i.e., math skills) and recognizing letters (i.e., reading skills) both represent a child's ability to understand that symbols have meaning. Therefore, this report provides information on multiple aspects of children's early literacy, such as their ability to recognize letters, the frequency with which they are read to, and their ability to recognize numbers, shapes, and understand the relative size of objects.