Proceedings from a Working Meeting on School Readiness Research: Guiding the Synthesis of Early Childhood Research. Introduction

12/15/2009

This paper is intended to stimulate discussion of several important questions related to the problems faced by children from low-income families as they enter school: first, what is the size of the school readiness gap and what does it indicate about the school readiness of children from different socioeconomic backgrounds?  Second, is it necessary to close the gap completely before children enter school in order to improve childrens chances of school success; and finally, what are the implications of what we have learned about the school readiness gap for future program and research efforts?

This paper adds to the body of knowledge about the school readiness gap through secondary analyses of several data sets aimed at describing the size and nature of the school readiness gap as well as the developmental trajectories of childrens school readiness skills. The paper begins by summarizing what we know about the gap in the school readiness of children from low-income families compared with their more advantaged peers, and its implications for later school achievement. As part of this discussion, we suggest one way in which the gap in achievement might be explained in a way that is easier to understand and that could be applied across a variety of different measures. The paper goes on to examine the question of whether the gap needs to be completely closed to reduce the likelihood of school failure. As part of this discussion, we look at children beginning school at varied levels of school readiness for differences in the rate of growth throughout the school years.

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