Ready for Kindergarten? Evaluating Early Childhood Retention Levels

Children enter kindergarten around the age of 5 and come from a variety of early educational experiences. Some children attend public preschool, while others attend voluntary pre-kindergarten classes at a private daycare facility. Others still are homeschooled. Given the variety of educational foundations, children’s outcomes tend to vary as well. Understanding what introductory academic experiences are most beneficial to children, and what factors put them most at risk for academic challenges, will help reduce the number of students who have to repeat kindergarten or subsequent grades. To study this, Adam Winsler of the Department of Psychology at George Mason University in Virginia assessed 13,191 culturally diverse children from Miami.

Winsler evaluated how prepared the children were for kindergarten based on retention levels. He examined the influence of minority status, maternal schooling, socioeconomic status, single-parent households, gender, and primary language. He found that few participants had delayed entry into kindergarten. Of those who did, the majority were English-speaking boys who had been enrolled in private daycare at age 4. Low level of maternal education also predicted lack of readiness in the participants.

The participants were from an ethnically diverse city, both limiting and strengthening the findings. The fact the findings will be difficult to replicate in other cities is a weakness, but the use of such a broad cultural sample provides a glimpse into the educational needs of an underanalyzed group of students. Despite these conditions, the results clearly showed that the Caucasian students with limited language skills and private daycare experience were most likely to have delayed or repeated kindergarten. Winsler believes parents should consider using assessment tools to determine their children’s readiness. He also believes that those in private daycare may benefit from an alternate educational foundation. “Early exposure to the public school system in the context of pre-K programs may help at-risk children progress normally in terms of their early academic promotion trajectories,” Winsler said.

Winsler, Adam, Linsey A. Hutchison, Jessica J. De Feyter, Louis Manfra, Charles Bleiker, Suzanne C. Hartmann, and Jerome Levitt. Child, family, and childcare predictors of delayed school entry and kindergarten retention among linguistically and ethnically diverse children. Dev 48.5 (2012): 1299-314. Print.

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  • Leanne


    September 21st, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    I can see how coming from a family with lower levels of maternal educational experience and exposure can make a difference for the success of the child. But my children both attended a private church weekday school for k2, k3, and k4 and were far and away ready for k5 in the public school system. As a matter of fact I would have been willing to even tyr to advance them immediately to 1st grade rather than another year of kindergarten had that not been so critical to their social development as children. There are some great public k4 programs, that is true, but in the town where I live only the children who are economically below the povert level are eligible to attend so the middle class families have no choice but to go with the private options instead.

  • Blaise


    September 21st, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    public school, private school. . . it’s all a matter what’s the best fit for your child or for your family, but the key to success is to get them involved in some sort of pre k program so that your child is not at such a disadvantage when they actually do begin school

  • eddie j

    eddie j

    September 22nd, 2012 at 5:01 AM

    In my opinion school success has very little to do with where hthe child goes to school. I know that many schools have more resources, but think about it this way. Teachers in so many schools can only do so much, but think about how much more you as a parent can give to your child. I realize that part of my job as a dad is to supplement and add to what my kids are getting taught to them at school. That’s my responsibility. Therefore I find that the more I sit down with my kids and read and help them with their schoolwork, the better that they are going to acafemically perfor. That’s it- that’s the answer. Parents have to stay involved in the educational process. Is that so hard?

  • martha


    September 22nd, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    irrespective of the preschooling method used I think attention to the pupil along with the right learning methods and the use of a second language vastly improving the skills of a child.this needs no study by itself but I think these parameters will hold up well if we look at previous research.

  • Leah


    September 22nd, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    What we learn during our years of early childhood are the things that are going to set the basis for our entire educational careers.

    The teachers, students, and the parents all have to work together to establish that firm foundation upon which everything else that we need to know and that we learn will be built upon.

    This is the area that needs more funding, more interaction, and more expertise, because the kids who do not receive these fundamentals that are taught here are inevitably the children who are going to be left behind. We need less of that and more catching up.

  • Nicholas


    September 22nd, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    Is preschool really that important? I believe so.If toddlers can learn and pick up just so many things even at when they are just a few months old and later on there is a lot that they can learn before they go on to kindergarten.If the environment at home is not conductive or if the parents are not confident they can handle it themselves then by all means they should put the child in a preschool.

  • matherson


    September 23rd, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    I guess this only means the age to join in the rat race is only going to decrease…welcome to our new advanced tech and toddlers-are-competitive age!

  • Marion


    September 24th, 2012 at 3:56 AM

    The one thing that I would like to add here is this: I think that far too many parents disregard the needs to read to their children daily, to have conversations with their children even at very youg ages, and they fail to prepare the for school by keeping them at home and never having them be around any other kind of structured setting with other children. There are plenty of parents who let the tv bebysit for them and who think that the occasional play date with another child is enough. Isn’t this the proof that it isn’t enough? They need far more interaction with adults to grow their vocabulary, while they need to be around other children to prepare them for the realities of the normal school day.

  • Jill


    September 24th, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    We are only putting more and more pressure on these children that have barely begun schooling.I do not think preschool is necessary.A mother is the first teacher and she can guide her child enough until he goes to school.Organized education does not need to begin so early in a child’s life IMO.

  • Brenda


    September 24th, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    Jill, I have to respectfully disagree with you. yes parents are the best first teacher that a child should have, but some children do not get that at home. So why not send them to a good school to build the foundation for their furture achievements? Being at home with mom all the time is great but how do you get the social skills doing that? How do kids learn to share when there is no one else there? How do moms alays know objectively when there could be a problem that early intervention programs may could solve? I’m sorry but there just has to be more for them to be the most successful.

  • elsie


    September 24th, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    hmm..there was a time when there was much debate about home schooling Vs preschooling.But now it seems like it is preschool by default as many parents now want their little children to acquire skills and learn more and more at a younger age.This will continue to happen.Although there are skeptics to this approach,we have to admit there are positives in addition to the few negatives seen with this system.

  • Lydia T

    Lydia T

    September 25th, 2012 at 7:25 AM

    If I want my children to learn what they need to know for school, I will do it myself. I plan to home school anyway as these are the children who are succeeding in classwork and testing, so why turn my impressionable child over to someone else? If I know that I can do it better than they can or will anyway, then it is a total waste of my time to send my child off somewhere else!

  • Charmaine


    September 25th, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    More than the environment or place where they received their first lessons,I think the methodology and comfort the child underwent matters more.You know,one could send a child in the best preschool and the methods there could be less than remarkable while another parent could teach and guide his child much better by themselves.That makes more difference I think.

  • c powers

    c powers

    September 26th, 2012 at 5:40 AM

    I am a little confused in that I would have thought that a child with a background in private daycare would have been better prepared and suited for kindergarten? If you start throwing this out there then you better look out because there are bound to be working moms everywhere who are forced to take their children to day care who are going to be roevolting against the research. I don’t know if it is right or not but I know that there will be plenty of parents up in arms when they read that it is their child going to daycare at an early age that could cause academic and possibly even social problems somewhere down the road.

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