Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Teacher Outreach Efforts and Reading Achievement in Kindergarten

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Teacher Outreach Efforts and Reading Achievement in Kindergarten

Article excerpt

To estimate the overall relationship between teachers' outreach efforts and the reading achievement of diverse kindergartners over the school year, multilevel modeling techniques were applied using a large sample of kindergarten students. The results showed that in schools with greater outreach efforts by teachers, there were sharper gains in the reading scores of students with low initial reading ability and students who frequently read outside of school. Minority students with low initial reading ability did not show much gain in schools where teachers engaged more in outreach. These findings demonstrate that teacher outreach efforts, student minority status, and reading outside of school were related to kindergartners' gains in reading skills, and distinguished the reading skills students carry with them to elementary school. Implications and methodological issues for future study are also addressed.

Keywords: diversity, achievement, teachers' roles, early childhood teachers

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Students are substantially influenced by their parents and families during the transition into kindergarten and throughout their first year of formal schooling. Teacher outreach efforts to help young children transition to kindergarten, along with the involvement of parents and families, should be an important element of kindergarten classrooms. Indeed, kindergarten teachers put a significant amount of time and effort into such outreach (McIntyre, Eckert, Fiese, DiGennaro, & Wildenger, 2007; Pianta, Cox, Taylor, & Early, 1999; Rimm-Kaufman & Pianta, 1999). For example, teachers commonly distribute newsletters, send information about parenting or schooling, send orientation materials, offer workshops, invite parents to volunteer in the classroom, make phone calls to parents, encourage parents and children to visit the classroom prior to the beginning of school, and invite parents to attend preenrollment orientation (Epstein, 2001; Hindman, Skibbe, & Morrison, 2010).

Nonetheless, questions arise as to whether it is worthwhile for kindergarten teachers to put such time and effort into reaching out when they are already occupied with numerous tasks in the classroom. Do young children have better achievement if they are in schools where the teachers invest their efforts in supporting students' transition into kindergarten? If so, do some children benefit more than others? Alternatively, does it matter whether schools and teachers focus on such efforts in preparation for and during students' earliest year of formal schooling? Investigating the role of teachers' outreach efforts in kindergartners' achievement by answering this array of questions is pivotal for administrators and policymakers, as well as for kindergarten teachers themselves. Unfortunately, there is not much research exploring the relationship between such outreach efforts and students' academic achievement, especially in reading, across a racially and ethnically diverse student body. Answering these questions will provide the field of education with significant implications on some of the pressing policy questions concerning teachers' outreach efforts and students' early academic achievement.

In the following sections, we first introduce the transactional model as the conceptual framework guiding this study. We then review studies on teachers' outreach efforts and the relationship of teachers' outreach efforts with kindergartners' characteristics, including reading achievement, minority status, and reading experiences outside of school. Next, we investigate the relationship between teachers' outreach efforts and the reading achievement of a diverse group of kindergartners through multilevel modeling. Finally, based upon the findings, we discuss implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research.

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK: TRANSACTIONAL MODEL

The transactional model served as the conceptual framework for this study. …

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