Kindergartners Enter More Ready in Math and Literacy, Researchers Say

Teachers in 2010 reported stronger academic skills among children entering school that year than did teachers in 1998, researchers at the University of Virginia and Stanford University found.
SNAPSHOT | Early Education

Kindergartners Enter More Ready in Math and Literacy, Researchers Say

Kindergarten students in 2010 started school with more math and literacy skills than kindergartners did just 12 years earlier. What changed in that time?

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Daphna Bassok at the University of Virginia and Scott Latham of Stanford University looked at teacher assessments of the skills of their kindergarten students in 1998 and in 2010. A score of 1 meant the child was showing no knowledge of a given skill, while 5 meant the child had not only mastered it, but could demonstrate the skill consistently. The assessments were made in the first few months of the kindergarten year.

Among the questions teachers were asked:
  • Could children easily name upper- and lower-case letters?
  • Could they read simple books independently?
  • Could they predict what will happen next in a story?
  • Do children understand relative quantities?
  • Could they solve problems including numbers?
  • Do they demonstrate an understanding of graphs?

The researchers found that though the magnitude of improvement varied, teachers in 2010 across the board reported that their students started school showing stronger academic skills than did teachers in 1998.

The researchers also found that the growth occurred among white, black, and Hispanic students, but the improved skills were more pronounced among black students in both math and literacy.


Teachers should keep these findings in mind to make kindergarten more interesting and engaging for students, not use them as a rationale to ladle on more academics that might not be appropriate for 5-year-olds, Bassok said. “We should just be responsive to who our students are,” she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 08, 2017 edition of Education Week as Snapshot: Kindergarten-Ready