The Relative Effects of Chronological Age on Hispanic Students' School Readiness and Grade 2 Academic Achievement

Article excerpt

This study examined the relations of age, preschool experience, and gender with children's school readiness levels at kindergarten entry. The sample included 5,512 children of predominantly Hispanic heritage and from families experiencing low socioeconomic circumstances. A series of between-subjects ANOVAs indicated that age (Eta^sup 2^ .019 to .043), preschool experience (Eta^sup 2^ .104 to .204), and gender (Eta^sup 2^ .015 to .022) were significantly related to children's school readiness as measured by the Kindergarten Student Entrance Profile (KSEP). Logistic regression examined the unique contribution of these variables to predict students' academic achievement at the end of Grade 2 with a subsample of 980 students. The strongest achievement predictor was school readiness - the odds of students rated in the top 25% on the KSEP having proficient or advanced scores on the English Language Arts portion of the California Standards Test at the end of Grade 2 were 4.51 greater than the odds of students rated in the bottom 75% on the KSEP having proficient or advanced scores. Similar results were found for students' achievement in mathematics. The key findings of this study showed that formal preschool experiences play an important role in preparing children of Hispanic descent and who live in households experiencing low income for kindergarten entry. However, children's readiness at entry into kindergarten was more strongly related to later academic achievement than age at kindergarten entry and preschool experience.

KEYWORDS: school readiness, Kindergarten Student Entrance Profile, age of school entry, academic achievement, Hispanic students, gender

As a child nears five years of age, parents often consider the skills he or she needs to be successful in school. Similarly, schools may use developmental screening assessments to evaluate if entering kindergarteners are prepared to be responsive learners (Saluja, Scott-Little, & Clifford, 2000). In response to these concerns, the California legislature passed a law moving the cutoff date for entry into kindergarten from December 2 to September 1 of the year in which the child turns five years old (Kindergarten Entry Age, CA SB. 1381, 2010). This change in policy was based on the belief that children entering kindergarten before five years of age are too young and that beginning school at an older age would benefit their academic and social development. In most U.S. states, children must be 5 years old by August 31September 1 to be eligible to enroll in kindergarten, and in some states, the entry date is June 1 (Stipek, 2002). California's policy change is reflective of a number of states changing the school entry date and requiring younger children to wait an additional year before entering kindergarten (Stipek, 2002).

Despite the laudable aims of this educational policy, which is backed by some research evidence (Bisanz, Dunn, & Morrison, 1995; Diamond, 1983; Langer, Kalk, & Searls, 1984; Stipek, 2003; Uphoff & Gilmore, 1985), there is still debate regarding the long-term effects of later entry into kindergarten, particularly for students who come from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds (Loeb, Bridges, Bassok, Fuller, & Rumberger, 2007).

Research over the past decade has demonstrated that children's school readiness is related to a variety of positive school-related outcomes (Duncan et al., 2007; Ladd, Herald, & Kochel, 2006; Le, Kirby, Barney, Setodji, & Gershwin, 2006; Quirk, Furlong, Lilies, Felix, & Chin, 2011). However, few studies have specifically examined the combinatorial influences of chronological age, gender, and preschool experience on children's readiness at entry into kindergarten (Gullo & Burton, 1992), and none have examined these issues with at-risk student populations. Thus, the current study examined the unique and interactive effects of age, preschool experience, and gender on children's school readiness at kindergarten entry with a sample of over 5,500 Hispanic children from a predominantly low income, agricultural community in central California. …