Despite an increase in programs to level the playing field to give disadvantaged children opportunities for preschool education, there is still a strong relationship between socio-economic factors and how well American children fare when entering kindergarten. In fact, new research shows that 44% of children enter kindergarten with one or more risk factors based on their home environment. These risk factors are incrementally associated with lower school readiness scores for children than those with no such circumstances.
The findings are part of the Kindergartners’ Skills at School Entry report (http://www.sesameworkshop.org/wp_install/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Kindergarten-Skills-Report-2014.pdf) released by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street. The report, commissioned by the Workshop and written byMathematica Policy Research Inc., provides an analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 focusing on the school readiness and abilities of beginning kindergartners.
The analysis examined four risk factors that have been associated with children’s development and school achievement: single parent households, mothers with less than a high school education, households with incomes below the federal poverty line and non-English speaking households. High-risk children (those with all four risk factors) were found to be almost a year behind their peers with no risk factors in their reading and math abilities.
The researchers also created composite readiness scores based on teacher ratings of children’s academic and social skills. Based on the researchers’ calculation, less than one-third of children were rated by teachers as “in-progress” or better on both reading and math skills.
“These nationally representative data show that at risk children start kindergarten well behind their more advantaged peers,” notes Jerry West, senior fellow at Mathematica and director of the study. “The evidence points to an opportunity to better support their healthy development before they enter kindergarten.”