Student Achievement

Study: Disadvantaged Babies Lag at the Starting Gate

By Debra Viadero — July 17, 2009 1 min read

This one goes in the category of research that I wish I didn’t have to report. According to a study out earlier this week, disparities in cognitive development begin to show up among children from different socioeconomic backgrounds as young as nine months of age.

Even before babies begin to walk or toddlers enter preschool, this research shows, children from poor families are trailing behind their more-advantaged peers on measures rating their behavior and cognitive abilities. The same pattern holds for minority children vis-a-vis white children, children of mothers with a high school diploma or less compared to those whose mothers are more educated, and children growing up in Spanish-speaking homes vs. those from English-speaking households. And those differences, the report adds, only grow over time.

Child Trends put together this study for the Council of Chief State School Officers. The researchers based the findings on data from a federal study that is tracking a nationally representative set of infants born in 2001.

They say the results speak to the need to intervene even earlier in children’s development. Forget universal preschool, these findings seem to suggest. Zero-to-five programs and efforts aimed at engaging and supporting parents could be an even better starting point for closing those persistent achievement gaps that bedevil K-12 educators.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.