Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Which School Characteristics in Kindergarten Mitigate the Influence Poverty Has on First Grade Achievement? a Multilevel Analysis

Friday, November 13, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Rachel S. Perlin, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
This paper is an extension of previous research that has explored the influences of early school characteristics on achievement for students who are affected by poverty in the United States. The study is a multilevel analysis of the impact that school characteristics in Kindergarten have on first grade academic and teacher-rated social skills and motivational learning behaviors related to the construct of self-regulation. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory provides the basis for the study and will explore the multiple systems and characteristics that are connected to the school environment. The research questions of the study include the following: what degree of association exists between certain school-level characteristics in Kindergarten and children’s academic scores and social-motivational learning behavior scores in first grade? Which school characteristics for low-income Kindergartners are associated most strongly with first grade academic scores and social-motivational learning behaviors? How much of the variability in low-income children’s first grade academic scores and social-motivational learning behavior scores is explained by child versus school-level characteristics? What measure of practical significance do certain school-level characteristics exhibit for first grade academic and social-motivational learning behaviors? Data used for the analyses comes from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Kindergarten (ECLS-K). The analytical sample consists of students who entered Kindergarten in 1998-99 who were below the poverty level at baseline and attended a public school. The sample includes 2,390 students nested within 579 schools.  School level characteristics of interest include various composite scales and predictors that depict the school’s family support services, teaching climate, adequacy of classroom materials, quality of school facilities, parental involvement, obstacles teachers face, class size, existence of an afterschool program, frequency of art, music and physical education classes, number of full-time social workers and nurses in the school, number of years on average teachers have taught at the school, and the neighborhood environment outside of the school. Outcome variables include math, reading, and general knowledge exam scale scores, as well as a constructed factor variable of teacher-rated scale scores for approaches to learning, self-control and interpersonal skills. If the results show strong associations between certain school characteristics and academic and social-motivational learning behaviors in first grade, the study could offer guidance for policies related to school resources and funding.