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

Children?s Perceptions About Themselves and Their School Experiences

Children?s Perceptions About School and Their Cognitive Status

Previous research has noted positive associations between young children?s perceptions about their cognitive abilities and interests in subject areas and their academic achievement in different subject areas (Chapman and Tunmer 2003; Guay, Marsh, and Boivin 2003; O?Sullivan and Weiss 1999; Valeski and Stipek 2001). For instance, fourth-graders who outperformed others on the NAEP science assessment were more likely to report that they enjoyed science (O?Sullivan and Weiss 1999). The ECLS-K data can also be used to explore relationships between children?s perceptions and their achievement in school. In order to examine the relationship between children?s perceptions about their competence and interests in reading, mathematics, and school in general with their achievement in different subject areas, children were categorized for this report into three equally sized achievement groups (lowest third, middle third, and highest third) in reading, mathematics, and science, based on their IRT-scale scores for each subject area (table A-15).36 Children?s perceptions of their competence and interest in reading, mathematics, and school in general were compared across the three achievement group categories because initial scatter plots displayed a non-linear relationship between achievement and perceptions.

Children scoring in the highest third of the third-grade reading assessment tended to respond more positively on the SDQ reading scale than children who scored in the lower two-thirds of the reading assessment (figure 14). Thus, children who performed best on the reading assessment were more likely than children at the lowest reading levels to indicate that they were interested in and enjoyed reading, and that they did not perceive their reading assignments to be too difficult for them. The same pattern was detected for children?s mathematics achievement; those achieving in the top third in mathematics had higher perceptions of their competence and interest in mathematics than children in the lower two-thirds of the third-grade mathematics assessment. Both sets of findings persisted after controlling for the other factors, such as children?s race/ethnicity and school type (table A-16). The relationship between children?s perceptions and achievement were subject-specific, however. For instance, children in the top third of the science assessment did not report substantively higher perceptions of their reading, mathematics, or general school competence than children at lower levels, and there was no substantive relationship between achievement in one subject area and perception of competence and interest in a different subject area.

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36 The correlation between children?s overall reading scale score in third grade and their score on the reading perceptions scale was 0.19 (t-value = 13.07). The correlation between children?s overall mathematics scale score in third grade and their score on the SDQ mathematics perceptions scale was 0.11 (t-value = 6.83).
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