Mathematica Policy Research report: Poor kindergarteners NOT READY for school

17 Jul

Educators have long recognized the importance of vocabulary in reading and learning. Francie Alexander writes in the Scholastic article, Understanding Vocabulary:

Why is vocabulary s-o-o important?
Vocabulary is critical to reading success for three reasons:
1. Comprehension improves when you know what the words mean. Since comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, you cannot overestimate the importance of vocabulary development.
2. Words are the currency of communication. A robust vocabulary improves all areas of communication — listening, speaking, reading and writing.
3. How many times have you asked your students or your own children to “use your words”? When children and adolescents improve their vocabulary, their academic and social confidence and competence improve, too.

A University of Chicago study, “Quality of early parent input predicts child vocabulary three years later,” published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlights the importance of parental involvement at an early stage of learning. See more at:

Rebecca Klein of the Huffington Post reported in the article, This Is How Behind Low-Income Children Can Be When They Enter Kindergarten:

A new analysis from Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit group behind Sesame Street, looked at how four risk factors impacted the abilities of kindergarten students right as they entered school. The risk factors included whether:
• the child lived in a home where English was not the primary spoken language
• the child lived in a single-parent household
• the child’s mother had less than a high school education
• the child’s family lived with an income below the federal poverty line
The analysis looked at data from The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11. The study, which was funded by the Department of Education, followed a nationally representative sample of 18,000 kindergarteners — “both children in kindergarten for the first time and kindergarten repeaters” — though fifth grade.
Of the 15,000 students who had entered kindergarten for the first time, Sesame Workshop found that 44 percent had one or more risk factor. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the more risk factors a child had, the worse he or she did in math and reading school readiness assessments… Children with more risk factors also did worse on tasks that measured memory…..
The analysis found that students who had all four risk factors — dubbed high-risk children — were almost a year behind their risk factor-free peers in reading and math.
“To catch up, high-risk children would need to make almost twice as much progress during kindergarten as low-risk children,” the study said.
Still, students with these risk factors are often concentrated in the same classrooms. Other reports that have analyzed the same data have noted that kindergarten classrooms are largely segregated by race and poverty.
And finally, according to teacher reports, students with more risk factors were less ready for kindergarten.

Here is the press release from Mathematica Policy Research:

Sesame Workshop Releases Educational Framework After Study Reveals More Than 40% of Children Enter Classrooms with One or More Factors That Can Negatively Affect School Success
New research shows there is still a strong relationship between socio-economic factors and how well American children fare when entering kindergarten. In fact, a new study finds 44 percent 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 for those with no such circumstances. Despite an increase in programs to level the playing field by giving disadvantaged children opportunities for preschool education, these gaps persist.
The findings are part of the Kindergartners’ Skills at School Entry report released today by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street. The report, commissioned by the Workshop and written by Mathematica Policy Research, provides an analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 focusing on the school readiness and abilities of beginning kindergartners.
“Preparing children for school has been part of Sesame Workshop’s mission since the beginning,” said Dr. Jennifer Kotler Clarke, Vice President, Research & Evaluation, Sesame Workshop. “There has not been an examination of children’s school readiness of this magnitude in more than 10 years and it’s important to us to understand the needs of children as they enter school. Given the risk factors children face, which put them at a disadvantage for school success, we are continuing to find ways to use our educational content to help change these outcomes.”
The analysis examined four risk factors that have been shown to affect 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.”
Sesame Workshop is sharing its Sesame Street Framework for School Readiness in response to the findings of the Kindergartners’ Skills analysis. The Framework is a guide for content developers to use to better understand the features of a typical developmentally age-appropriate content experience in relation to the fundamental school readiness skills. Developed by the Workshop’s Education and Research Department, the Framework describes the developmental progressions across the preschool years for specific curriculum objectives within the 20 core school readiness skills. It guides Sesame Street content across all media platforms, as part of the organization’s mission to help children grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. The Workshop is also encouraging developers to use this resource to enhance the educational benefits of their content.
Based on the findings of the analysis, Sesame Workshop will convene an advisory meeting with experts in education and child development to discuss potential uses for Sesame Street’s library of content, as well as other actions that can support school readiness and academic success.
Kindergartners’ Skills at School Entry uses data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which is a national examination of about 15,000 children who entered kindergarten in fall 2010, and uses direct child assessments in addition to interviews with parents, teachers and school administrators. The study will follow children through the fifth grade. The ECLS is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, which reaches 156 million children across more than 150 countries. The Workshop’s mission is to use the educational power of media to help children everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. Delivered through a variety of platforms, including television programs, digital experiences, books, and community engagement, its research-based programs are tailored to the needs of the communities and countries they serve. For more information, visit
Jodi Lefkowitz, Sesame Workshop, 212-875-6497,
Joanne Pfleiderer, Mathematica, 609-275-2372,
About Mathematica:
Mathematica Policy Research seeks to improve public well-being by conducting studies and assisting clients with program evaluation and policy research, survey design and data collection, research assessment and interpretation, and program performance/data management. Its clients include foundations, federal and state governments, and private-sector and international organizations. The employee-owned company, with offices in Princeton, NJ; Ann Arbor, MI; Cambridge, MA; Chicago, IL; Oakland, CA; and Washington, DC, has conducted some of the most important studies of health care, international development, disability, education, family support, employment, nutrition, and early childhood policies and programs.

Teachers and administrators as well as many politicians if they are honest know that children arrive at school at various points on the ready to learn continuum. Teachers have to teach children at whatever point on the continuum the children are.


Baby sign language

The importance of the skill of handwriting in the school curriculum

The slow reading movement

Why libraries in K-12 schools are important

University of Iowa study: Variation in words may help early learners read better

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr.

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