US researchers find school readiness tests predict success in school 18 months later
Researchers from the University of Missouri (MU) College of Education have found that a readiness test can predict kindergarteners’ success in school after 18 months, which they believe will allow teachers and parents more time to build essential academic and social behavioural skills.
Melissa Stormont, a professor of special education, says identifying students early in the academic year who may need additional support can allow teachers and parents opportunities to work more closely with children as they transition to school.
“This is a critical time to assess student academic and social readiness, so that teachers can provide support as early as possible before issues worsen and become harder to change. This screening tool is a simple first step that can help children in the long run,” Dr Stormont said.
In conducting the study, researchers distributed the screening tool to 19 teachers in six elementary schools. Early in the school year, those teachers used the screen to rate 350 students.
The MU researchers then compared the students’ scores from the screen to their performances on a math and reading achievement test, and to teacher ratings of their social and emotional skills 18 months later.
Children who rated poorly in academic readiness were nine to 10 times more likely to have low reading scores at the end of first grade. In addition, children who rated poorly 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 screening tool has some comparative points with the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) which uses data to focus on five key areas – physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, and communication skills and general knowledge. These key areas are referred to in the data as early childhood development domains.
For each of the five AEDC domains, children receive a score (determined by their educators) of between zero and ten. A score of zero in any domain means a child is highly vulnerable, developmentally, when compared with their peers. A child scoring ten would be performing extremely well developmentally, in comparison with their peer group.
Dr Stormont said using screening tools such as the one in the study could help teachers in developing lessons and interventions to help their students who are having difficulties.
“This study highlights the need to support children more when they transition to kindergarten and these positive results definitely merit further study.”
Dr Stormont recommended that parents support children entering kindergarten by talking with their child about social behaviour expectations in kindergarten and have them practice doing things like taking turns and following directions.
In addition, parents and their children can meet with teachers to discuss what those expectations are. Parents also can explore summer programs before school starts that can help acclimate children to the classroom and learn routines.
The study results also support efforts to help children with reading and math, as initially poor academic readiness predicted problems 18 months later.
To read the study, please see here.