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Taking School Readiness Assessment from Research to Practice: Preliminary Developmental Norms for the HTKS

Sat, March 23, 4:15 to 5:45pm, Hilton Baltimore, Floor: Level 2, Key 11

Integrative Statement

Background: To succeed in school, children need many skills. Especially important are attending to tasks and interactions, inhibiting automatic but maladaptive responses, and remembering and applying new information (Cameron, 2018). Early childhood performance on this set of skills, known collectively as executive function or behavioral self-regulation, is linked to a wide range of outcomes from early childhood to adulthood (McClelland, Acock, Piccinin, Rhea, & Stallings, 2012).
The Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders (HTKS) assessment of behavioral self-regulation has been used in research across the United States and the world (Wanless et al., 2011) and predicts children’s achievement and classroom behavior from preschool through early elementary school (Cameron Ponitz et al., 2009; McClelland et al., 2007). Although the HTKS has been robustly validated in research using diverse samples, developmental norms (Cohen & Swerdlik, 2018) that help practitioners understand a child’s behavioral self-regulation in relation to other children of similar age have not been established.
This study reports preliminary developmental norms for the HTKS. We expected that the HTKS would demonstrate adequate variability and age-related increases in children ages 4 to 8 years, the task’s recommended age span. We expected minor floor and ceiling effects for the youngest and oldest children, respectively.
Method: Three existing data sets (total N=892) were examined, including children ages 4 to 8 from three states across the U. S. (South, Midwest, and Northwest). All children were administered the most recent, 3-part version of the task, using updated scoring recommendations which specifies including all practice and test items in the total score.
Children first copy the examiner, then to “do the opposite” by touching their head when told to touch their toes; to touch their knees when told to touch their shoulders; and to combine and then to switch these rules. The task thus increases in complexity, taking 5-7 minutes with strong inter-rater reliability. All items are scored 0 (incorrect), 1 (self-correct), or 2 (correct). Possible scores range 0 to 94 where higher scores indicate higher levels of behavioral self-regulation.
Results: Table 1 shows the socio-demographic characteristics of the entire sample and by site. Children were divided into 6-month age groups for the estimates. Mean scores by age group are shown in Table 2 and suggest that the task demonstrates variability for children between the school transition years of ages of 4-8, corroborating previous research (e.g., McClelland et al., 2014). Average scores of about 26 at age 4 and 31 at age 5 indicate that by formal school entry, children can be expected to master the first part of the task, which involves 2 rules. By age 6, the average child has mastered the second part, involving 4 rules. After age 6, the average child can perform a complex rule switch.
Present results can be used to guide the development of official norms to indicate whether individual children may be at risk for not being at age and grade-level over the transition to formal schooling. Necessary next steps are to address missingness and to match the sample to national demographics.


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