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Zill, Nicholas; West, JerryEntering Kindergarten: A Portrait of American Children WhenThey Begin School. Findings from the Condition of Education,2000.National Center for Education Statistics (ED), Washington,DC.
ED Pubs, P.O. Box 1398, Jessup, MD 20794-1398; Tel:877-433-7827 (Toll Free); Web site: (Home page)http://www.nces.ed.gov; Web site: (Electronic Catalog)http://www.nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/indes.aspReports Descriptive (141)MF01/PCO2 Plus Postage.Age Differences; *At Risk Persons; Child Health; FamilyEnvironment; High Risk Students; *Kindergarten;*Kindergarten Children; *Knowledge Level; LearningReadiness; Longitudinal Studies; Primary Education; *SchoolReadiness; Sex Differences; Student Attitudes; StudentBehaviorEarly Childhood Longitudinal Survey
With the launch of the U.S. Department of Education's EarlyChildhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99, measures ofknowledge, skills, health, and behavior of a large and nationallyrepresentative sample of American Kindergartners are available. Drawing ondata fi-om the study, this report provides a portrait of kindergarten childrenin the areas of reading, mathematics, and general knowledge, as well asnoncognitive aspects of school readiness. The report details: (1) what atypical child knows at school entry; (2) what the typical child's health andbehavior are like at school entry; (3) what factors help account forvariations in knowledge, health, and behavior at school entry; (4) whatsex-related differences in school readiness exist for kindergartners; (5)what family background characteristics affect children's skills andknowledge; and (6) how risk factors affect noncognitive aspects of schoolreadiness. Among the findings are the following: (1) most children know theirletters and can count more than 10 objects; (2) most are in very good toexcellent health, though some experience developmental difficulties; (3) mostare reasonably well behaved and exhibit a positive approach to classroomtasks; (4) some have advanced skills while others lag behind; (5) age is afactor in variations in knowledge, health, and behavior; (6) girls and boyshave similar skills, although girls are slightly ahead in reading; (7) moreboys experience developmental difficulties; (8) girls are more prosocial andless prone to problem behavior; (9) nearly half of all enteringkindergartners come from families with one or more risk factors in the areasof parental education, socioeconomic status, and family structure; (10)minority children are more likely to be at risk; (11) risk factors are linkedto poorer child health; (12) at-risk children are less likely to be sociallyadept and more likely to be aggressive; and (13) fewer at-risk children have
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a positive attitude toward learning activities. (Contains 40 references.)(HTH)
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U.S. Department of EducationRichard W. Riley
Office of Educational Research and ImprovementC. Kent McGuireAssistant Secretary
National Center for Education StatisticsGary W. Phillips
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting,analyzing, and reporting data related to education in the United States and other nations. It fulfills acongressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report full and complete statistics on the
condition of education in the United States; conduct and publish reports and specialized analyses ofthe meaning and significance of such statistics; assist state and local education agencies in improvingtheir statistical systems; and review and report on education activities in other countries.
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U.S. Department of Education, National Center ibr Education Statistics, Entering .Kindergarten: APortait of American Children When They Begin School: Findings from The Condition of Education
2000, Nicholas Zill and Jerry West, NCES 2001-035, Washington, DC: U.S. Government PrintingOffice, 2001.
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Why is it important to know what children are like at school entry? 5
Why is it difficult to assess early knowledge and skills? 5
What does the typical child know at school entry? 9
What is the typical child's health and behavior like at school entry? . 11
What range of skills do kindergarten teachers encounter? 12
What factors help account for variations in knowledge, health, andbehavior at school entry? 13
Are there sex-related differences in school readiness forkindergartners? 18
What family background characteristics affect children's skills andknowledge? 20
How do risk factors affect noncognitive aspects of schoolreadiness? 27
Entering Kindergarten Page 3
Entering Kindergarten: A Portrait ofAmerican Children When They BeginSchoolNicholas Zill and Jerry West
What knowledge and skills do children possess when they start school? How preparedare they for the social and academic demands oldie classroom? Can they get along ina large group of children? Can they sit still and pay attention? Are they interested inlearning? How do knowledge, skills, and behavior vary across individuals and amonggroups of children, such as older versus younger pupils, girls versus boys, and childrenfrom high-risk as opposed to more ordinary family circumstances?
Why is it important to know what children are like at schoolentry?The answers to this question are important for policy and practice. What a childknows and how he or she behaves are products of both genetic endowment and thechild's experiences before entering school (Willerman 1979; Plomin 1990). Thus,measures of children's knowledge and behavior at school entry can serve as indicatorsof how well families, child-care institutions, and preschool programs prepare childrenfor school. At the same time, these measures provide guidance about what kind ofcurriculum might be appropriate for the first year of school (Freeman and Hatch1989; Knudsen-Lindauer and Harris 1989). If teachers are aware of the skills andabilities that the typical child has mastered before the first day of class, teachers andschool systems are less likely to design a course of study that is either too challengingor not challenging enough for the typical child. In this regard, it is useful to appreci-ate not only what the average child knows at school entry but also what the range ofknowledge is across an entire class of children.
Group differences at school entry are important for appraising how well the schoolshave done at the end of the first and subsequent school years. Although differences inachievement found at the end of the school year may have been present at the begin-ning of the year, we cannot know this unless skills are measured at the beginning ofthe year. Without this information, we cannot properly appraise how much growthhas occurred. It may be concluded erroneously that schools are producing superiorachievement because of the high caliber of their instruction, when, in fact, schoolsmay be maintaining (or even diminishing) advantages that their pupils had when en-tering school.
Why is it difficult to assess early knowledge and skills?Although measures of children's knowledge, skills, and behavior at school entry arevaluable, such measures are not easy to obtain. Most children can neither read norwrite when they enter school, so we cannot simply distribute test booklets and ask
Entering Kindergarten Page 5
young children to provide machine-scoreable answers to a series of multiple- choicequestions. In-person, one-on-one assessments are required. Each assessmen