Can school readiness tests predict future success in school?

A study published in School Psychology investigates the importance of screening children for their readiness for kindergarten (Year 1), and how effective this is at predicting outcomes in first grade (Year 2).

Nineteen kindergarten teachers and 350 children from six elementary schools in Missouri took part in the study. Teachers completed a kindergarten academic and behaviour readiness screener at the beginning of the academic year. Melissa Stormont and colleagues then compared pupil scores from the screening tool to their performance on a maths and reading achievement test, and to teacher ratings of their social and emotional skills 18 months later.

The results showed that children with poor academic readiness were more than 9 times more likely to have low reading scores at the end of their first-grade year. Similarly, children who rated poor in behaviour readiness were six times more likely to be rated as having displayed disruptive behaviour and poor social skills by their first-grade teachers. The authors suggest that the screening tool could be used to screen for children low in readiness in order to provide supports and monitoring for early intervention.

Source: Teacher-rated school readiness items in a kindergarten sample: Outcomes in first grade (August 2019), School Psychology

Kindergarten-based yoga programme improves cognition and behaviour in children

A randomised controlled trial published in Frontiers of Psychology, assesses the impact of a kindergarten-based yoga programme on cognitive performance, visual-motor coordination, and inattentive and hyperactive behaviours in five-year-old Tunisian children.

Forty-five children (28 female and 17 male) took part in the 12-week trial, and were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Fifteen children performed Hatha yoga twice a week for 30 minutes per session, 15 children performed generic physical education twice a week for 30 minutes per session, and another 15 children performed no kind of physical activity, and served as a control group.

Prior to and after the 12 weeks, all children completed a visual attention test and a visual-motor precision test, and teachers evaluated their inattention and hyperactivity behaviours. The three interventions were conducted in parallel and supervised by teachers who were not involved in rating the children’s behaviour pre- and post-test.

Sana Jarraya and colleagues found that yoga had a positive impact on children’s inattention and hyperactivity compared to the other two groups. Yoga also had a positive impact on the completion times for two visual-motor precision tasks in comparison to children in the physical education group. The visual attention scores of the yoga group were also higher in comparison to the control group.

The researchers concluded that yoga could be a cost-effective exercise for enhancing cognitive and behavioural factors relevant for leaning and academic achievement among young children.

Source: 12 weeks of kindergarten-based yoga practice increases visual attention, visual-motor precision and decreases behavior of inattention and hyperactivity in 5-year-old children (April 2019), Frontiers in Psychology

Fostering curiosity can promote academic achievement

A new research article by Prachi Shah and colleagues at the University of Michigan shows that children who are curious have higher academic achievement than those who aren’t. In fact, they see cultivating curiosity in the classroom—promoting the joy of discovery and motivating pupils to find out answers to life’s questions—as an untapped strategy for early academic success.

Researchers used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which has tracked thousands of children since 2001. Children were followed via parent interviews and assessing the children at ages 9 months, 2 years, in pre-K (reception) and kindergarten (Year 1), and then looking at the reading, maths and behavioural skills of 6,200 of these children in 2006 and 2007 when they were in kindergarten. After controlling for other factors that might influence academic achievement, results showed that eagerness to learn new things had a small but positive influence on kindergartners’ reading (effect size=+0.11) and maths (+0.12). This was even more so for children from low SES backgrounds (effect size=+0.18 in reading, +0.20 in maths).

Source: Early childhood curiosity and kindergarten reading and math academic achievement (April 2018), Pediatric Research

The positive side of taking the school bus

Out of all the early school years, excessive absenteeism is most prevalent during kindergarten (Year 1). While there may be many reasons for this, including difficulty moving from pre-school, how they get to school has been little studied.

In the first study to examine the effects of taking a school bus on reducing school absences, Michael Gottfried of the University of California Santa Barbara examined if taking a school bus to school reduced kindergarten pupil absence rate, and looked for any patterns among child and family characteristics.

Subjects were 11,000 US public school pupils who participated in The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Kindergarten Class of 2010–2011 (ECLSK:2011). As part of the study, data including school bus-taking was collected on a nationally representative set of kindergarten pupils in the 2010–2011 school year. Twenty-four percent of these kindergarten pupils took a school bus to school. They were paired with non-bus-taking pupils based on demographics, household conditions and kindergarten entry skills. Results showed that the kindergarten pupils who took the bus to school were less likely to be absent than their non-bus-taking peers, regardless of family characteristics, poverty level, or distance to school.

Authors discuss several implications of these findings, most notably that if taking the bus to school increases pupil attendance, this should be a consideration when budget cuts threaten to curtail school bus services.

Source: Linking getting to school with going to school (April 2017), Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis

Social skills in kindergarten linked to positive outcomes in adulthood

A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health reports a link between children’s social skills in kindergarten (which most children in the US attend when they are age 5/6) and their well-being in early adulthood.

Data for the study came from the longitudinal Fast Track project, an intervention designed to reduce aggression in children identified as high risk for long-term behavioural problems and conduct disorders. As part of Fast Track, nearly 800 children were evaluated by their teachers on a range of social behaviours, such as whether they resolve peer problems, listen to others, and share materials. Each child received a composite score representing his or her overall level of positive social skills/behaviour on a scale from 0 (“not at all”) to 4 (“very well”). Using a variety of data sources, researchers monitored these children and their life events, both positive (eg, obtaining a high school diploma) and negative (eg, getting a criminal record), until they turned 25.

Findings showed that for every one-point increase in a child’s social competence score in kindergarten, he/she was:

  • Twice as likely to attain a college degree in early adulthood;
  • 54% more likely to earn a high school diploma; and
  • 46% more likely to have a full-time job at the age of 25.

For every one-point decrease in a child’s social competence score in kindergarten, he/she had:

  • 64% higher chance of having spent time in juvenile detention;
  • 67% higher chance of having been arrested by early adulthood; and
  • 52% higher rate of recent binge drinking and 82% higher rate of recent marijuana use.

In conclusion, the authors say, “Our results suggest that perceived early social competence at least serves as a marker for important long-term outcomes and at most is instrumental in influencing other developmental factors that collectively affect the life course. Evaluating such characteristics in children could be important in planning interventions and curricula to improve these social competencies.”

Source: Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness (2015), American Journal of Public Health.

More evidence to support full-day kindergarten in the US

In the US, most children aged 5/6 attend kindergarten (the equivalent age to Year 1 of school in the UK). However, the length of day varies. In an effort to examine the relationship between education and health and the implications for instituting statewide full-day kindergarten, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, implemented a health impact assessment. As part of the study, researchers compared Nevada’s half-day kindergartners to its full-day kindergartners and found that full-day kindergarteners performed better on assessments and were healthier than their half-day peers. The study was undertaken as the state tried to determine if it would be worthwhile to expand full-day kindergarten to all of its schools.

Researchers studied six Nevada districts based on their size, diversity, and availability of data. They also examined the availability of nutrition and physical education in these schools. They found that full-day children had higher test scores than half-day children at the end of kindergarten or first grade regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or knowledge of English, and scored higher on third-grade (Year 4) reading proficiency tests. The authors note that children who are proficient in reading by third grade are demonstrated to be more likely to graduate than those who are not.

Source: Full-day Kindergarten in Nevada: A Health Impact Assessment (2015), University of Nevada, Las Vegas.