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Factors Associated with Preschool-to-Kindergarten Transition Patterns for Black Girls

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Policymakers and school practitioners emphasize that young children need to have key school readiness skills as they transition from preschool (PK) to kindergarten (K), including both academic skills (e.g., language, literacy, math) and socioemotional competencies (e.g., executive functioning, self-regulation) (Early Head Start National Resource Center, 2003; National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2000). While research about the trajectory of school readiness skills of young Black boys is available (Iruka, Gardner-Neblett, Matthews, & Winn, 2014), there is an absence of information specific to young Black girls. In fact, little is known about Black girls’ academic and socioemotional skills and how these factors associate with the transition to kindergarten. This study fills this gap in the literature by conducting a longitudinal profile analysis of Black girls’ school readiness skills during this critical transition in early childhood schooling. In addition, the current study examines factors associated with such transitions, e.g., parental health and well-being, early education experiences, and family demographic characteristics.

Data Source & Sample: Data were drawn from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort, a longitudinal panel study of a nationally representative sample of children born in the U.S. in 2001, followed from birth through kindergarten entry. The current study uses data on Black girls (N=700) from the preschool and kindergarten waves. The average age of girls during the preschool wave was 52.98 months (SD=4.35).

Analytic Approach: Latent profile analysis (LPA) was used to explore preschool-to-kindergarten academic and socioemotional competence patterns (Bauer & Curran, 2004; Lubke & Muthén, 2007). Then multinomial logistic regression was conducted to examine the factors that predict the likelihood of being in a particular profile.

Measures: Direct assessments of language, early reading, and mathematical skills and teacher/provider-reported socioemotional skills and behaviors were utilized as profile indicators. Profile predictors included: family SES, parenting behavior, parental well-being, neighborhood quality, and preschool experiences.

Results: Three learning patterns from preschool through kindergarten were found: (1) Consistent Learner (53%), (2) Gifted Learner (17%), and (3) Struggling Learner (30%). Consistent Learners had average academic and socioemotional skills in PK and managed the transition to K well, evidenced by growth during the kindergarten year. Gifted Learners stood out among the others with both academic and socioemotional skills that were significantly higher than the girls in the other two groups. At the opposite extreme, Struggling Learners had difficulty in both academics and socioemotional skills. Multinomial logistic regression results revealed distinct compositions of girls within these profiles, such as differences in family SES and teacher communication. All of the factors that distinguished the groups occurred during the PK year, suggesting the preschool year as prime for setting children on the right trajectory for success.

Conclusions: These results expand our knowledge about the academic and socioemotional strengths and challenges of young Black girls as they transition into formal schooling. This work also has implications for improving kindergarten transitions, such as highlighting the importance of positive teacher-child relationships in PK and adequate communication between teachers and families.

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