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From Kindergarten to Third Grade: Children's Beginning School Experiences

Children?s Perceptions About Themselves and Their School Experiences

How do third-graders perceive themselves and their relations with other children? Is their academic achievement at the end of third grade related to their perceptions?

In the early school years, children begin to develop perceptions about their competence and interest in school and their relationships with others. Children?s ratings of their academic competence begin to correspond with objective measures of their cognitive performance about the time that they enter second or third grade (Chapman and Tunmer 2003; Guay, Marsh, and Boivin 2003; Wigfield et al. 1997).

In the first 2 years of the ECLS-K (i.e., kindergarten and first grade), parents and teachers responded to questions about children?s socioemotional development. For the first time in the third-grade year, the children were asked to report on this by completing a self-description questionnaire (SDQ), which included 42 items related to their perceptions about their school abilities and interests, their peer relationships, and their perceptions about any problem behaviors they might exhibit. Trained assessors read each statement to the child, then provided time for children to mark their answer in a booklet.34 Children responded to each behavioral statement on a scale from 1 to 4, including the response categories of ?not at all true,? ?a little bit true,? ?mostly true,? and ?very true.? Children?s responses were used to develop six scales that describe children?s perceptions about their competence and interest in (1) reading, (2) mathematics, and (3) school in general and their perceptions about their (4) peer relationships and any (5) internalizing or (6) externalizing behaviors that they may exhibit. Scale scores were based on the mean value calculated from the items that composed each scale.35 This section describes the children?s perceptions overall and in relation to characteristics of the children themselves, their families, and their early school experiences on each of the six scales. For each scale, bivariate and regression analyses were conducted.

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34 More details on the SDQ administration procedures are provided in Appendix B: Methodology and Technical Notes.

35 The standard deviations for each of the SDQ scale scores are as follows: reading scale = 0.67, mathematics scale = 0.81, all subjects = 0.66, peer relationships = 0.65, internalizing problem behaviors = 0.73, and externalizing problem behaviors = 0.70. Thus, differences in group mean scale scores were substantive if they were statistically significant and greater than or equal to an effect size of 0.17 points on the reading scale, 0.20 on the mathematics scale, 0.17 on the all subjects scale, 0.16 on the peer relationships scale, 0.18 on the internalizing problem behaviors scale, and 0.18 on the externalizing problem behaviors scale.
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