America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013


The kindergarten year is a pivotal marker for children’s development. At kindergarten entry, there are differences among children in terms of their cognitive knowledge and skills, level of socioemotional development, and approaches to learning. This special feature highlights kindergartners’ aptitude in several key areas related to success in school. The depth and breadth of children’s knowledge and skills are related to both developmental and experiential factors. Students’ early academic knowledge and skills and approaches to learning are described in this feature with respect to demographic characteristics as well as with respect to family and household characteristics.

This special feature is based on data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–2011 (ECLS-K:2011),146 which is the third in a series of longitudinal studies of young children conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The ECLS surveys provide comprehensive and reliable data about children’s early learning and development, as well as their transition into kindergarten and progress through school. The data used for this special feature are for ECLS-K:2011 students who were first-time kindergartners in the fall of 2010. The feature describes differences in children’s performance at kindergarten entry in three academic, cognitive, and socioemotional areas, namely, reading, mathematics, and approaches to learning. In addition, the feature describes children’s early science performance, which was captured in the spring of kindergarten. Although various differences in children’s performance on these measures were observed across demographic and other characteristics, the discussion focuses on only a selection of these differences.


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