Ohio State research links school readiness to life trajectory
The Sector > Research > Ohio State research links school readiness to life trajectory

Ohio State research links school readiness to life trajectory

by Freya Lucas

June 12, 2024

Children who experience success on entering school are more likely to do well throughout their academic career, researchers from The Ohio State University have said, noting that school readiness skills such as language development, literacy development, and social/emotional skills are solid foundations. 


“How well kids do in kindergarten is predictive of academic achievement in third grade, eighth grade and so on,” EHE Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology and Executive Director of the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy and the Schoenbaum Family Center Laura Justice said. 


“What we argue is that the workforce readiness skills that employers are looking for are the same skills that we want kids to have when they walk into kindergarten.”


Professor Justice presented her findings at a statewide conference, sharing Crane Center research that showed that the most in-demand skills for the 21st century workplace include problem solving and critical thinking, communication, time management and social intelligence. 


The groundwork for many of these skills can be formed in early education, she argues, and is the responsibility of parents and educators to foster. 


“For instance, you have a child with a temper tantrum. It’s going to happen in every home. There’s 20 different ways you can react to that temper tantrum: You can scold the child, put him in timeout,” she said.


The most effective approach, she added, is “really working with your child to help them learn how to identify their own emotions.”


Parents also play a role in helping children develop literacy and communication skills, Professor Justice said.


“The simplest, easiest thing that parents can do, in terms of early cognitive development, is have frequent conversations with your child that are sensitive and responsive and to share books with your child,” she said. “And as you read, have discussions about the book.”


Research has found that one strategy to help more children develop the skills they need to do well in kindergarten is making high-quality preschool and other child care programs more affordable, something which she would like to see more readily implemented in the US.


“We know from large-scale studies, if we put kids in preschool and child care programs that aren’t good, it can actually have adverse effects,” she said. “But when it’s high-quality child care, it can build all those skills.”


One of the hallmarks of high-quality child care is a stable teaching staff, she continued.


“Kids’ development is really conditioned on having access to stable caregiving.” 


“Lower quality programs tend to have educators who are moving in and out. We also want to see an intentional teaching curriculum that is designed to explicitly build skills like language, literacy and social/emotional.”


Making high-quality child care more accessible is a two-fold approach: increasing affordability for parents and increasing wages and qualifications for those who care for children, Professor Justice believes.


“We have to increase wages and increase credential expectations – formal training in a community college or perhaps a four-year degree,” she said. “Families are desperate to have care for their kids. And they’re putting them in low-quality programs because we haven’t raised wages and we haven’t implemented reforms in a way that actually elevates quality.”

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