Children's Cognitive Knowledge and Skills
What knowledge and skills do children demonstrate in the spring of third grade? How have these changed since they first started school? Do children?s knowledge and skills and the gains they have made over time differ by certain child, family, and school characteristics?
Although the ECLS-K is the first National Center
for Education Statistics (NCES) study to conduct
direct assessments of children?s cognitive achievement
in their first years of school, other NCES surveys
have assessed children?s reading, mathematics,
and science skills as early as fourth grade. The 2003
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
reading and mathematics assessments found that
fourth-graders? achievement scores in both subject
areas differed in terms of children?s sex, race/ethnicity,
eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch, and the
type of school they attended (NCES 2003b; NCES
2003c). In reading, fourth-grade girls had higher
average scores than fourth-grade boys (NCES 2003c).
White and Asian/Pacific Islander fourth-graders outperformed
their Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/
Alaska Native counterparts in reading and mathematics.
Also, low-income fourth-graders (those who
were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch programs)
had lower average scores in both subject areas than
those who were not eligible for such assistance. In
addition, children attending private schools outperformed
their peers in public schools in both subject
areas in fourth grade (NCES 2003b; NCES 2003c).
The first part of this section examines how
children?s achievement in reading and mathematics
changes from the start of kindergarten to the end of
their fourth year of schooling, when most children
are enrolled in third grade. Second, children?s overall
achievement status in reading, mathematics, and science
at the end of third grade is described. Third,
information is provided on the specific sets of reading
and mathematics knowledge and skills that children
demonstrate at the end of third grade. Differences
in children?s achievement are described overall
and in relation to characteristics of the children, their
families, and their early school experiences.