Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Investigation of Dimensions of Social-Emotional Classroom Behavior and School Readiness for Low-Income Urban Preschool Children

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Investigation of Dimensions of Social-Emotional Classroom Behavior and School Readiness for Low-Income Urban Preschool Children

Article excerpt

Abstract. The present study identified higher order relationships among teacher assessments of approaches to learning and emotional and behavioral adjustment constructs for low-income urban preschool children. It examined the unique contribution of these dimensions to cognitive and social competencies and risk of poor academic outcomes. Analyses of a large representative sample of urban Head Start children revealed two distinct and reliable higher order dimensions of classroom adjustment behavior: regulated and academically disengaged behavior. Both dimensions contributed unique variance to the prediction of early mathematics ability and general classroom competencies before kindergarten entry, controlling for child demographics. Each dimension also contributed independently to the prediction of academic risk, controlling for child demographics. Implications for practice and policy are discussed.

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With the enactment of No Child Left Behind legislation, American public schools are being held accountable to ensure that all children are meeting minimum academic standards by third grade (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Research has indicated that only 32% of fourth-graders in the United States have met literacy proficiency standards (Reyna, 2005). Furthermore, minority children have disproportionately performed below minimum proficiency standards in both literacy and mathematics (Reyna). By establishing third grade as the point of accountability, the No Child Left Behind legislation affirms the significance of early childhood education and the necessity of effective early identification and intervention.

A large body of empirical literature emphasizes the importance of early childhood intervention. Three National Research Council reports, Eager to Learn (2001), From Neurons to Neighborhoods (2000), and Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children (1998), highlight the early childhood years as a critical time for development. Research documents that the competencies young children acquire during these years form the foundation on which they will develop and build future competencies (National Research Council, 2000). Young children exposed to social and biological risk factors are at greater risk for not developing these foundational competencies, placing them at future risk of poor school performance (Sameroff & Fiese, 2000). Furthermore, quality early care and education have been found to promote positive school outcomes, particularly for vulnerable young children living in poverty (Kolker, Osborne, & Schnurer, 2004; Lynch, 2004).

Head Start is our nation's largest federally sponsored early childhood program developed to serve at-risk, vulnerable, young children by promoting school readiness (Zigler, Finn-Stevenson, & Hall, 2002). Informed by a comprehensive, developmental model, Head Start targets eight key domains of development to enhance readiness; these include language development, literacy, mathematics, science, creative arts, physical health, approaches to learning, and social and emotional development (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 2003). Historically, Head Start's primary goal was to enhance social competence. In recent years, this has shifted to emphasize cognitive, school readiness skills in conjunction with the No Child Left Behind legislation. This has placed a greater emphasis in Head Start on early reading competencies and other cognitive competency. Early mathematics has been identified as another set of key cognitive readiness competencies for low-income preschool children (Jordan, Huttonlocher, & Levine, 1994; Jordan, Kaplan, Olah, & Locuniak, 2006). This shift has generated concern by many early childhood advocates that the promotion of foundational approaches to learning and social-emotional competencies will be deemphasized in early childhood curriculum and as a result children will be placed at greater risk for poor school adjustment (Raver & Zigler, 2004). …

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