Kids’ school success depends more on early academic skills than behaviour

November 14th, 2007 - 10:37 am ICT by admin  

The study was based on an analysis of existing data from six longitudinal studies involving more than 35,000 preschoolers in the United States, Canada and England.

“We find the single most important factor in predicting later academic achievement is that children begin school with a mastery of early math and literacy concepts,” said Greg Duncan a North-western University researcher and the study’s primary author.

But it was the disassociation between social and emotional behaviours and later academic learning that most surprised the researchers.

They found that kids who were disruptive did not have any difficulty learning as much as their better-behaved classmates.

“Children who engage in aggressive or disruptive behaviour or who have difficulty making friends wind up learning just as much as their better behaved or more socially adjusted classmates provided that they come to school with academic skills. We do not know if their behavior affects the achievement of other children,” said Northwestern’s Duncan.

“The paramount importance of early math skills — of beginning school with a knowledge of numbers, number order and other rudimentary math concepts — is one of the puzzles coming out of the study.”

Controlling for IQ, family income, gender, temperament, type of previous educational experience, and whether children came from single or two parent families, the study found that the mastery of early math concepts on school entry was the very strongest predictor of future academic success.

“Mastery of early math skills predicts not only future math achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement. And it does so just as reliably as early literacy mastery of vocabulary, letters and phonetics predicts later reading success.”

The opposite — reading skills predicting math success — does not hold up.

The study’s conclusions about the importance of early academic and attention skills are consistent with recommendations from expert panels of early mathematics and literacy professionals. The study’s authors did not look at curricula.

Support for the study came from the Center for the Analyses of Pathways from Children to Adulthood at the University of Michigan, a National Science Foundations-funded Developmental Science Center. (ANI)

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