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Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?

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Recent accounts suggest that accountability pressures have trickled down into the early elementary grades and that kindergarten today is characterized by a heightened focus on academic skills and a reduction in opportunities for play. This paper compares public school kindergarten classrooms between 1998 and 2010 using two large, nationally representative data sets. We show substantial changes in each of the five dimensions considered: kindergarten teachers’ beliefs about school readiness, time spent on academic and nonacademic content, classroom organization, pedagogical approach, and use of standardized assessments. Kindergarten teachers in the later period held far higher academic expectations for children both prior to kindergarten entry and during the kindergarten year. They devoted more time to advanced literacy and math content, teacher-directed instruction, and assessment and substantially less time to art, music, science, and child-selected activities.
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AERA Open
January-March 2016, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 1 –31
DOI: 10.1177/2332858415616358
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In 2009, a report titled “Crisis in the Kindergarten” warned
that kindergarten in the United States had radically changed
over the past two decades and that “developmentally appro-
priate learning practices” centered on play, exploration, and
social interactions had been replaced with highly prescrip-
tive curricula, test preparation, and an explicit focus on aca-
demic skill building. It called for a “reversal of the pushing
down of the curriculum that has transformed kindergarten
into de facto first grade” (Miller & Almon, 2009, p. 63).
In recent years, major news outlets have run stories with
titles such as “The New First Grade: Too Much Too Soon”;
“More Work, Less Play in Kindergarten”; and “Kindergarten
or ‘Kindergrind’?” (Gao, 2005; Orenstein, 2009; Tyre, 2006;
Vise, 2007). Although anecdotal accounts from teachers and
parents describe kindergarten classrooms characterized by
mounting homework demands, worksheets, and pressure to
learn to read as early as possible, there is surprisingly little
empirical evidence about the extent to which kindergarten
classrooms have changed over time.
This paper fills that gap, describing changes in public
school kindergarten classrooms over time using two large,
nationally representative datasets. We document systematic
changes across five key dimensions of the kindergarten
experience: (a) teachers’ beliefs about school readiness, (b)
time allocated to academic and nonacademic subjects, (c)
classroom organization, (d) pedagogical approach, and (e)
assessment practices.
These changes are important to document because a large
body of research suggests there are meaningful and potentially
long-term implications to the way early childhood classrooms
are structured and taught (Chetty et al., 2011; Claessens, Engel,
& Curran, in press; Pianta, La Paro, Payne, Cox, & Bradley,
2002). Although there is growing consensus that children’s
early childhood learning experiences can meaningfully influ-
ence their short- and longer-term life outcomes (Barnett, 1995;
Chetty et al., 2011; Yoshikawa et al., 2013), it is less clear pre-
cisely what aspects of the early learning environment (e.g.,
curricular focus, pedagogical approach) are most critical for
promoting these gains.
In particular, there is substantial debate among parents,
educators, researchers, and policymakers about the potential
benefits and risks of orienting early childhood learning
experiences more squarely toward academic content
(Duncan, 2011; Elkind & Whitehurst, 2001; Zigler, 1987;
Zigler & Bishop-Josef, 2006). Although critics of academi-
cally focused kindergarten caution that focusing heavily on
academic content is not “developmentally appropriate”
(Datar & Sturm, 2004; Raver & Knitzer, 2002; Shonkoff &
Phillips, 2000; Stipek, 2006), there is also evidence that
exposure to academic content in kindergarten (and particu-
larly exposure to advanced content) can be beneficial for
student learning (Clements & Sarama, 2011; Engel,
Claessens, Watts, & Farkas, 2015). An oft-raised concern is
that a focus on academic content might crowd out other
important types of learning experiences that help develop
social and regulation skills or foster physical and mental
health, each of which is a predictor of children’s longer-term
outcomes.
Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?
Daphna Bassok
Scott Latham
Anna Rorem
University of Virginia
Recent accounts suggest that accountability pressures have trickled down into the early elementary grades and that kinder-
garten today is characterized by a heightened focus on academic skills and a reduction in opportunities for play. This paper
compares public school kindergarten classrooms between 1998 and 2010 using two large, nationally representative data
sets. We show substantial changes in each of the five dimensions considered: kindergarten teachers’ beliefs about school
readiness, time spent on academic and nonacademic content, classroom organization, pedagogical approach, and use of
standardized assessments. Kindergarten teachers in the later period held far higher academic expectations for children both
prior to kindergarten entry and during the kindergarten year. They devoted more time to advanced literacy and math content,
teacher-directed instruction, and assessment and substantially less time to art, music, science, and child-selected activities.
Keywords: kindergarten, early childhood education, academic content, school readiness
616358EROXXX10.1177/2332858415616358Bassok et al.Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?
research-article2016
Bassok et al.
2
The Changing Nature of Kindergarten
Historical accounts of kindergarten make it clear that the
acute tensions between the academic and more broad devel-
opmental goals of kindergarten are not new (Dombkowski,
2001; Russell, 2011). Cuban (1992) details the ebbs and flows
of these two competing goals for kindergarten over more than
a century. Unfortunately, larger-scale empirical evidence
about the changing nature of kindergarten is lacking.
Nevertheless, there is a growing impression among prac-
titioners, researchers, and the media that in the past two
decades, preschool and kindergarten classrooms have rap-
idly become more academically oriented and less focused on
exploration, social skill development, and play. A common
narrative is that accountability pressures, particularly from
the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), have led to
changes in the early grades (Goldstein, 2007; Graue, 2009;
Pianta, Cox, & Snow, 2007; Stipek, 2006). Although NCLB
did not require testing for children before the third grade,
some have argued that the intense pressures that principals
and teachers felt about their students’ performance on high-
stakes assessments led to an “accountability shovedown”
and the “educationalization of early care and education”
(Hatch, 2002; Kagan & Kauerz, 2007).
There is some empirical evidence supporting the claim
that NCLB, or accountability pressures more broadly,
impacted the learning experiences of young children
(Russell, 2007). In a qualitative case study of a Texas ele-
mentary school, Booher-Jennings (2005) described the
intense pressure teachers in the untested early grades (K-2)
felt to prepare their students for third-grade assessments and
the reduction of recess to 15 minutes per week, despite the
concerns of early childhood teachers. In a larger-scaled
investigation, Jacob (2005) showed that high-stakes account-
ability led children in early, untested grades to be “preemp-
tively retained” so that they would not be included in
standardized testing. Similarly, several recent studies dem-
onstrate that low-performing teachers in high-stakes grades
are disproportionately reassigned to untested early elemen-
tary classrooms and that this harms children’s learning
(Fuller & Ladd, 2013; Grissom, Kalogrides, & Loeb, 2014).
Although accountability pressures are often the presumed
impetus for changes to kindergarten classrooms, other shifts
over the past two decades may have also contributed to a
heightened focus on more advanced content. Notably, there
have been substantial increases in both public and private
investments in early childhood education. Between 1990
and 2011, the number of 3- to 5-year olds enrolled in public
preschool programs more than doubled from 1.2 million to
2.9 million children (Current Population Survey, 2015). It
may be the case that this expanded access to public pre-
school has meant that incoming kindergarteners today have
already had substantial exposure to classroom environments
and to learning opportunities in a way that may not have
been true two decades ago.
Relatedly, a number of scholarly and popular accounts
have documented increases in parental investments in their
young children’s learning as well as heightened pressure
among some parents to give young children an academic
“edge” (Bassok, Lee, Reardon, & Waldfogel, 2015; Bassok
& Reardon, 2013; Kornrich & Furstenberg, 2013; Otterman,
2009; Ramey & Ramey, 2010; Reardon, 2011). Recent work
by Bassok and Latham (2014) actually documents substan-
tial increases in the early academic skills of incoming kin-
dergarteners. In part, then, it may be that heightened
investments in children’s early development, both through
expanded access to preschool and through changing home
environments, have led to children entering school with
higher “readiness” than before and that changes in kinder-
garten teachers’ beliefs and practices are partially a response
to the entering children.
The Current Study
The existing research demonstrates the link between
early childhood learning and later life outcomes and sug-
gests that the content and organization of early childhood
classrooms meaningfully impacts young children’s learning.
Although it is commonly stated that kindergarten classrooms
have changed rapidly over the past decades, there is little
empirical evidence describing how much these classrooms
have changed and along which dimensions. The current
study fills these gaps, leveraging two rich, nationally repre-
sentative data sets to provide a detailed account of how pub-
lic school kindergarten classrooms have changed. We focus
on changes over a dozen years, a relatively short period of
time but also a period characterized by heightened account-
ability through the introduction of NCLB as well as increased
investment in early childhood education.
We address three descriptive research questions:
1. To what extent and along what dimensions has the
public school kindergarten experience changed
between 1998 and 2010?
2. Is kindergarten the new first grade? To what extent
do kindergarten classrooms in 2010 mirror first-
grade classrooms from the late ’90s?
3. Are changes in the kindergarten experience over this
period systematically different in schools serving
high proportions of children eligible for free or
reduced-priced lunch (FRPL) or children who are
non-White?
We hypothesized that relative to kindergarten classrooms
in 1998, kindergarten classrooms in 2010 would be more
focused on academic instruction and assessment, particu-
larly around literacy and math, which are the tested subjects
under NCLB. We also hypothesized that an increased focus
on literacy and math would crowd out time spent on other
Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?
3
subjects, such as art, music, science, social studies, and
physical education (PE). At the same time, we note that over
the period we investigated, the percentage of children
enrolled in full-day kindergarten rose from 56% to 80%
(Bassok, Gibbs, & Latham, 2015). Given this striking
increase in the typical number of hours kindergarteners
spend in school, another plausible hypothesis would be an
across-the-board increase in time devoted to all subjects. To
the extent that changes to kindergarten may have been driven
by heightened accountability pressures, we expect that kin-
dergarten classrooms in schools that serve the highest per-
centage of low-income and non-White students, which are
also schools most likely to experience accountability pres-
sures, would see the most pronounced changes.
Method
Data
This study leverages data from two kindergarten cohorts
of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K:1998
and ECLS-K:2011), each of which includes detailed sur-
veys of parents, teachers, and school administrators along
with direct child assessments. In both waves of the
ECLS-K, kindergarten teachers completed fall and spring
surveys (for ECLS-K:1998, see https://nces.ed.gov/ecls/
kinderinstruments.asp; for ECLS-K:2011, see https://nces.
ed.gov/ecls/instruments2011.asp). Because the bulk of the
items on these surveys were identical or very similar across
waves, the data allow for a careful comparison of kinder-
garten classrooms between 1998 and 2010.
1
Both studies employed a multistage probability design to
obtain nationally representative samples of students entering
kindergarten in their respective years. In this process, schools
were first sampled from “primary sampling units” (counties
or groups of counties), and students were then sampled from
within schools. The 1998 data collection sampled over
21,000 children, and in 2010 over 18,000 students were
sampled.
2
We limit our sample to public school teachers, as
they are the group most likely impacted by public policies,
particularly NCLB and other accountability pressures that
arose in the years between our two cohorts. Our final sam-
ples include about 2,500 public school kindergarten teachers
in 1998 and 2,700 teachers in 2010.
Our focus throughout is on the survey responses of kin-
dergarten teachers. However, because children’s teachers
were also surveyed the following year, when the majority of
children had proceeded to the first grade, we also compare
the responses of first-grade teachers in 1999 and 2011, for
which we have samples of approximately 3,350 and 3,850,
respectively. This comparison allows us to investigate
whether the changes we observe over the 12-year span of our
study were particularly pronounced in kindergarten relative
to another early elementary grade. In addition, where possi-
ble, we compare the responses on kindergarten teachers in
2010 with first-grade teachers in 1999 in order to explicitly
examine the question we raise in the papers title: Is kinder-
garten the new first grade?
3
Measures
The detailed ECLS-K teacher surveys allow us to explore
changes to public school kindergarten classrooms across
five dimensions: (a) teachers’ beliefs about school readiness,
(b) curricular focus and time use, (c) classroom materials,
(d) pedagogical approach, and (e) assessment practices.
Below, we provide a description of the specific items
included in each of these categories. Due to the large number
of measures considered in the paper, we opted to dichoto-
mize all of the categorical variables considered to simplify
the presentation of results. In supplementary online appendi-
ces, we show the full distribution of these categorical
variables.
School Readiness Beliefs and Kindergarten Expecta-
tions. Teachers were asked how strongly they agreed with a
number of statements pertaining to school readiness and their
expectations for entering kindergarteners (e.g., “Children who
begin formal reading and math instruction in preschool will
do better in elementary school”; “Most children should learn
to read in kindergarten”). They were also asked to rate the
importance of a number of skills for students entering kinder-
garten (e.g., counting to 20, sitting still, being sensitive to
other children’s feelings) on a 5-point scale ranging from not
important to essential. For each of the belief measures, we
report the percentage of teachers who rated each skill as either
very important or essential (i.e., a 4 or 5).
Curricular Focus and Time Use. The ECLS-K surveys
include a variety of items that allow us to measure changes
in curricular focus. First, teachers reported the frequency
with which they taught each broad subject area (e.g., read-
ing/language arts, music). In addition to items about aggre-
gated time use, teachers were also asked to describe how
often they taught specific skills. For each subject, the skills
ranged from fairly simple (e.g., alphabet and letter recogni-
tion) to complex (e.g., writing stories with an understand-
able beginning, middle, and end). We report the percentage
of teachers who indicated they taught each broad subject or
specific skill daily, at least once a week, and never.
An advantageous feature of the ECLS-K survey for the pur-
pose of this study is that in 1998, teachers could specify that an
activity never happened because it is “taught at a higher grade
level.” This allows us to describe the extent to which skills that
were considered outside the scope of kindergarten by a sub-
stantial portion of kindergarten teachers in 1998 are reported as
commonplace by kindergarten teachers in 2010.
The ECLS-K surveys also asked teachers questions
regarding their coverage of science and social studies topics
Bassok et al.
4
(e.g., human body, dinosaurs and fossils, important figures
in American history). Although in 1998 teachers were asked
to report how often they cover each topic, in 2010 teachers
were asked only whether the topic was ever covered during
the year. We therefore examine changes over time in the
likelihood these topics were covered at all during
kindergarten.
Classroom Setup and Materials. Kindergarten teachers
reported whether their classrooms had 10 specific activity
centers, such as a math area with manipulatives, a water or
sand table, a science area, an art area, or a dramatic play
area. We report the percentage of teachers who indicated
they had each activity area in their classroom. Although the
same set of questions was not asked of first-grade teachers,
those teachers did report the frequency with which their stu-
dents used a variety of materials, including art materials,
musical instruments, costumes, or science equipment. We
report changes over time in the percentage of first-grade
teachers who indicated they use these materials daily,
weekly, or never.
Pedagogical Approach. In addition to measuring what chil-
dren were taught in kindergarten (content and curricular
focus), we also measure how they were taught using three
sets of variables. Although the surveys do not specifically
ask about time allotted for “play,” our goal was to describe
the learning environment and the extent to which children
had opportunities to make independent choices about their
learning experiences. Teachers were asked to report the
amount of time their students spent on “child-selected activi-
ties” as well as on “teacher-directed whole-class activities.”
We report the percentage of teachers who spent about one
hour or more per day on child-selected activities and the per-
centage that spent 3 hours or more on teacher-directed
whole-class activities.
We also examined a set of items about the types of liter-
acy and math activities the teachers use in their classroom.
Teachers reported the frequency with which they use 20 lit-
eracy and 17 math instructional practices. The items ranged
broadly from activities children might do independently at
their desk (worksheets or workbooks) to hands-on activities,
such as working with measuring spoons, to activities like
using music or drama to understand math concepts. We
describe changes across each of the pedagogy items included
in the survey but particularly highlight changes in time
devoted to workbooks, worksheets, and textbooks because
critical accounts have often pointed to heavy usage of these
materials as potentially harmful for children.
Finally, we describe the percentage of teachers who
reported having PE or recess on a daily basis, as these are
among the best measures available in the data set to measure
how frequently children experience active movement and
unstructured play opportunities.
Assessment Practices. The final set of items we present
relates to assessment practices. Teachers were asked to indi-
cate how important they consider various factors when eval-
uating the children in their class. These ranged from “effort”
and “cooperativeness with others” to a child’s “performance
relative to local, state, or professional standards.” We report
the percentage of teacher who considered each of these
assessment approaches very important or essential.
In addition, in 2010, kindergarten teachers were asked
how frequently they used standardized tests to assess their
kindergarteners’ progress. Notably, these items were not
included on the 1998 kindergarten survey. However, in 1999,
when the majority of the first ECLS-K cohort entered first
grade, their teachers were asked the same questions about
assessment practices that were later asked in 2010. We com-
pare kindergarten teachers in 2010 with first-grade teachers
in 1999 in terms of how often they used standardized
assessments.
School and Teacher Characteristics. The ECLS-K data sets
include surveys of school administrators collected in the
spring of the kindergarten year. Administrators were asked
to report the schoolwide percentage of students who were
eligible for FRPL as well as the schools’ racial composition.
We constructed a variable to indicate that a school was in the
top quartile of FRPL-eligible students (i.e., the schools serv-
ing the most low-income children) and another to indicate a
school was in the top quartile of non-White students (i.e., the
lowest percentage of white students). We use these variables
to assess whether changes in kindergarten over time differed
across schools based on their demographic composition.
As described further below, we explore this question in a
logistic regression framework and control for other school
and teacher characteristics that may be associated with both
the school demographic composition and our outcomes.
Most importantly, we account for whether teachers work in
a half- or full-day kindergarten classroom. This is a critical
covariate because time-use variables differ significantly
across these settings and because there has been a substantial
shift toward full-day programs over the period examined. To
ensure a consistent definition of full-day care across waves,
we constructed an indicator set to 1 if the class met for 5 or
more hours per day. We also include an indicator for whether
each school offers a preschool program, as schools that pro-
vide early childhood education programs may have system-
atically different approaches to their kindergarten
curriculum.
To address other potential sources of selection bias, we
have measures of school enrollment, class size, urbanicity
(city, suburb, rural) and region (Northeast, Midwest, West,
South). We also include a set of teacher characteristics.
These include teacher experience, modeled as an indicator
for whether a teacher is in his or her first 3 years of teaching,
indicators for whether the teacher holds an elementary or
Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?
5
early childhood credential, and several demographic covari-
ates. Appendix A1 provides descriptive statistics for these
school- and teacher-level covariates.
Analytic Plan
To address our first two research questions, we present
descriptive statistics highlighting how kindergarten and
first-grade teachers’ accounts of their classrooms have
changed over a roughly 12-year period. Because all of our
measures of the kindergarten outcomes are binary, we run
logistic regressions to assess the statistical significance of
changes over time. Although the two data sets leveraged in
the current study do not track the same teachers or schools,
and therefore do not allow us to assess whether individual
teachers changed their own practices or beliefs over this
time period, we are able to describe the extent to which two
kindergarten teaching cohorts resemble one another.
Full-day kindergarten increased substantially over our
study period (from 56% to 80%). This is relevant for our
analysis because changes we observe in our outcome vari-
ables, particularly those related to time use, may in part be
driven by the shift toward full-day programs. In other words,
students may spend more time on literacy instruction because
they spend more time in school. To address this, we run our
analyses separately for full- and half-day programs.
We answer our final research question about the relation-
ship between kindergarten teachers’ beliefs and practices
and the demographic composition of the school where they
teach, by estimating logistic regressions that take the form
K_Practice = β
0
+ β
1
K2010 + β
2
FRPL
+ β
3
FRPL*K2010 + β
4
School′ + ε,
where our outcome (K_Practice) is one of 15 measures of the
kindergarten experience, including teachers’ beliefs about
school readiness, their classroom setup, and their use of text-
books. K2010 is an indicator variable set to 1 if the respond-
ing teacher is part of the 2010 sample and 0 if he or she is
from the 1998 sample. FRPL is an indicator for whether a
school is in the top quartile of students eligible for FRPL (i.e.,
the lowest-income schools). We then include the interaction
between these two dichotomous variables (cohort and school
demographic composition) to examine whether changes were
more pronounced in schools serving the highest proportion of
children eligible for FRPL (or those with the most non-White
children). School′ is a vector of school and teacher covariates
as described above. β
0
is a constant term and ε is a stochastic
error term. We also run analogous models that replace our
FRPL variable with an indicator for whether a school was in
the top quartile of non-White students.
We present odds for schools, disaggregated by their
demographic composition and separately in 1998 and 2010.
We then calculate marginal effects and test whether in each
time period the expected odds of exposure to a particular
kindergarten characteristic differed depending on the school
characteristic. Finally, we test whether the gaps across these
school types grew (or narrowed) over the period studied by
calculating the “difference in differences.” Standard errors
are clustered at the school level to account for the nested
nature of the data. In all the analysis that follows, we use
sampling weights developed as part of the ECLS-K surveys
to make the results nationally representative.
Results
Differences in Kindergarten 1998 to 2010
Below, we describe changes in kindergarten classrooms
between 1998 and 2010 along our five primary dimensions.
Teacher Beliefs. The top panel of Table 1 shows responses to
a number of questions about academic skills and school readi-
ness. We find increases on all of these. Most strikingly, the per-
centage of kindergarten teachers who report that they agree or
strongly agree that children should learn to read in kindergar-
ten increased sharply from 31% to 80%. We also see substan-
tial increases in the percentage of teachers who think parents
should teach their children the alphabet before they start kin-
dergarten as well as the percentage who think children should
begin formal reading and math instruction before kindergarten
(33- and 30-percentage-point increases, respectively).
The bottom panel of the table shows the percentage of
teachers who believe various school readiness skills are very
important or essential for kindergarten. The first thing to
note is that in 2010 teachers rated all 13 characteristics as
more important than did kindergarten teachers in 1998.
However, we document especially pronounced increases in
the percentage of teachers who rated academic skills as
important for school readiness. For example, the percentage
of teachers who reported that knowing the letters of the
alphabet was very important or essential more than doubled
from 19% in 1998 to 48% in 2010. The percentage of teach-
ers who indicated color and shape identification and count-
ing skills were important rose by 28 and 22 percentage
points, respectively. We see smaller increases in the percent-
age of teachers who rated self-regulation and social skills as
very important (approximately 10 to 16 percentage points).
The 33-percentage-point increase in the number of teachers
who believed it was important to know how to use a pencil
or paintbrush stands out. Although this item does not involve
specific familiarity with preliteracy or math academic con-
tent, it might be considered academic in that using a pencil is
prerequisite for more complex writing skills.
It is also worth noting that in both periods, the academic
skill items were among the skills rated as least important
overall. In other words, although beliefs about the impor-
tance of academics have increased more than beliefs in other
6
TABLE 1
Kindergarten Teachers’ Beliefs About School Readiness and Kindergarten Learning, 1998 and 2010
Belief 1998 2010 Difference
Readiness beliefs (percentage indicating they agree or strongly agree)
Most children should learn to read in kindergarten 31 80 49***
Parents should make sure their kids know the alphabet before they start kindergarten 29 62 33***
Children who begin formal reading and math instruction in preschool will do better
in elementary school
34 64 30***
Attending preschool is very important for success in kindergarten 63 83 20***
Homework should be given to kindergarten children almost every day 35 40 5
How important do you believe the following characteristics are for a child to be
ready for kindergarten? (percentage indicating skill is very important or essential)
Academic skills
Knows most letters 19 48 29***
Identifies primary colors and shapes 31 59 28***
Can count to 20 13 35 22***
Self-regulation
Can follow directions 78 91 13***
Sits still and pays attention 61 77 16***
Finishes tasks 54 65 11***
Is not disruptive 79 89 10***
Social skills
Takes turns and shares 73 87 14***
Is sensitive to others’ feelings 62 72 10***
Other skills
Good problem-solving skills 36 49 13***
Able to use pencil and paintbrush 35 68 33***
Communicates verbally 85 92 7***
Knows the English language 47 59 12***
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten teachers in public schools. All means are weighted at the teacher level using appropriate sampling weights. Figures
shown are percentages rounded to closest percentage point.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
areas, teachers in both periods report other skills, such as
self-regulation and social interaction, as most important at
school entry. Overall, then, our results suggest a heightened
emphasis on academic skills among kindergarten teachers in
the later period but fail to show that teachers now value these
skills over and above other school readiness skills.
Curricular Focus and Time Use. The ECLS-K data provide
a number of ways to measure changes in curricular focus,
including aggregate measures of exposure to broad subject
areas (e.g., reading/language arts, music) as well as within-
subject content coverage. In this section we describe both.
Overall subject matter exposure. The upper panel of
Table 2 presents measures of overall subject matter exposure,
showing the percentage of teachers who report daily, weekly,
and no exposure to particular subject areas. The top row indi-
cates, for example, that in 1998, nearly all kindergarten teachers
(96%) reported teaching reading and language arts daily. Given
the ubiquity of literacy instruction in both waves, we are unable
to use these particular time use measures to assess whether, on
average, literacy instruction has increased over the time period
considered, a point we return to in the next section.
4
We do observe an increase in the percentage of teachers
reporting daily math instruction (from 83% to 91%). We also
find that in both periods, teachers report much less frequent
instruction in social studies and science than in literacy and
math. Approximately a quarter of teachers report daily social
studies lessons, and a fifth report that much exposure to sci-
ence. We do not observe substantial changes in these figures
across waves.
Where we do find substantial changes is in time spent on
nonacademic subjects, including music, art, dance, theater, and
foreign language instruction. In 1998, just over a third of kin-
dergarten teachers reported daily music instruction. This figure
dropped by 18 percentage points in 2010, and a similar pattern
is evident for art instruction, where the percentage of teachers
reporting daily instruction dropped from 27% to 11%. We also
document a substantial increase in the likelihood that dance,
theater, and foreign language are not taught at all during the
7
TABLE 2
Frequency of Subject Instruction in Kindergarten and First Grade, 1998 and 2010
Taught daily Taught at least weekly Never taught
Subject 1998 2010 Difference 1998 2010 Difference 1998 2010 Difference
Kindergarten
Reading/language arts 96 97 1 100 100 0 0 0 0
Math 83 91 8*** 100 99 -1 0 0 0
Social studies 25 24 -1 93 94 1 0 1 1**
Science 18 20 2 92 94 2* 0 1 1**
Music 34 16 -18*** 93 89 -4** 1 4 3***
Art 27 11 -16*** 95 87 -8*** 0 3 3***
Dance/creative movement 12 12 0 58 43 -15*** 11 37 26***
Theater 5 2 -3*** 39 22 -17*** 18 50 32***
Foreign language 8 4 -4** 18 10 -8*** 65 83 18***
1999 2011 Difference 1999 2011 Difference 1999 2011 Difference
First grade
Reading/language arts 98 94 -4*** 100 100 0*** 0 0 0
Math 95 93 -2** 100 99 -1 0 0 0*
Social studies 17 17 0 94 93 -1 0 1 1
Science 15 17 2 94 94 0 1 1 0
Music 7 4 -3*** 86 85 -1 2 6 4***
Art 4 2 -2** 86 81 -5*** 1 4 3***
Dance/creative movement 3 3 0 25 22 -3 37 52 15***
Theater 1 1 0 11 11 0 41 59 18***
Foreign language 3 3 0 12 10 -2 78 84 6***
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten and first-grade teachers in public schools. Figures shown are percentages rounded to closest percentage point. All
figures are weighted at the teacher level using appropriate sampling weights.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
kindergarten year. For example, whereas 18% of teachers
reported never doing theater activities with their kindergarten-
ers in 1998, in 2010 that figure rose to 50%. Similarly, in 1998
only 11% of teachers reported never teaching dance to their stu-
dents compared with 37% in 2010. In additional analyses,
available upon request, we find that these patterns are quite
similar for half-day and full-day kindergarten classrooms.
Curricular coverage. Because in 1998 nearly all teach-
ers already reported regular exposure to all academic topics,
and particularly to literacy and math, our crude measures of
overall exposure fail to accurately capture changes in expo-
sure to these subject areas over time. For that reason, it is
also useful to examine more disaggregated data about the
frequency with which teachers cover specific topics within
each broader curricular category.
Figure 1 presents changes in time spent on six specific
literacy and math topics. We highlight these particular
items from among the 14 literacy and 25 math skills
included in the survey because they were seen as particu-
larly advanced, where advanced skill is determined based
on the percentage of kindergarten teachers in 1998 who
reported that the skill was never taught in their classroom
because it was covered in a later grade. For instance, in
1998, 44% of teachers reported that they never taught
“conventional spelling.” This figure plummeted to 17% in
2010. Relatedly, the percentage of teachers who reported
teaching conventional spelling on a daily basis rose sharply
from 45% to 76%. The same general patterns hold for the
other topics highlighted in the figure, which include com-
posing and writing complete sentences; composing stories
with a beginning, a middle, and an end; place value; writ-
ing math equations; and probability.
The top panel of Appendix A2 presents similar figures
for all literacy skills included in the survey. Overall, we find
sizable increases in nearly all the literacy items included,
particularly those that were classified as challenging in the
1998 data (e.g., identifying the main idea and parts of a
story, using context clues for comprehension). The only
skills for which we observe (modest) declines are relatively
basic skills (e.g., alphabet and letter recognition, conven-
tions of print).
The top panel of Appendix A3 shows analogous results
for math skills. The same overall pattern holds. For two
thirds of the skills included (16 of 25), we find significant
increases in the likelihood the skill was covered at least once
8
a week. We see no significant change in the remaining nine
skills. Taken together, these findings suggest a heightened
focus on literacy and math skills in kindergarten, with par-
ticularly pronounced increases in more advanced tasks.
In stark contrast, when we look at exposure to specific science
topics, our results suggest a nearly universal drop in exposure.
Figure 2 highlights the percentage of teachers who reported par-
ticular science topics are taught in their classroom. For instance,
whereas over two thirds of kindergarten teachers in 1998 reported
they taught children about dinosaurs at some point in the school
year, only a third reported doing so in 2010. Appendix A4 shows
similar figures for all science and social studies topics included in
the survey. We document significant drops for 13 of 15 science
topics, and in the bulk of these, we observe a drop of at least 10
percentage points. For social studies, the patterns are more incon-
sistent and the drops, when observed, are more modest.
FIGURE 1. Kindergarten language and math content exposure, 1998 to 2010. “How often are each of these skills taught in your
class?” Stars indicate significant differences across years. Weekly = at least once per week. Sentences = composing and writing complete
sentences. Stories = composing and writing stories with an understandable beginning, middle, and end. Writing equations = writing math
equations to solve word problems.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
FIGURE 2. Kindergarten science content exposure, 1998 to 2010. Proportion of teachers that indicate topic is covered in the
kindergarten year. Stars indicate significant differences across years.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
9
Classroom Setup. Table 3 presents changes in exposure to
particular interest areas. The first four classroom areas shown
are the ones most directly linked to literacy and math instruc-
tion (e.g., a reading area with books and a math area with
manipulatives). All four were very common in 1998, with
between 86% and 100% of teachers reporting their classroom
included each of these areas. They remained fairly ubiquitous
in 2010, although we do observe a 6-percentage-point
decrease in the likelihood of offering a listening center.
We do find substantial drops in the likelihood classrooms
included centers focused on the arts or on science. For exam-
ple, whereas nearly all kindergarten teachers reported hav-
ing an art area in 1998 (92%), in 2010 that figure dropped to
71%. The likelihood of offering a dramatic play area, a sci-
ence or nature area, or a water or sand table each dropped by
over 20 percentage points. Taken together, these results echo
our earlier findings about drops in exposure to science and
the arts. To the extent that the presence of such classroom
interest areas or centers corresponds to a more hands-on or
exploratory approach to learning, these findings may also
suggest changes over this period in instructional approach.
Pedagogical Approach. We explore this issue more directly
in Table 4, which presents changes in the use of child-
selected activities, more didactic instructional activities, and
opportunities for free play and physical movement. We
describe these patterns below.
Child-selected activities. The first two measures relate
to time spent on child-selected activities and time spent on
teacher-directed instruction. In 1998, 54% of kindergarten
teachers reported that children in their class typically spent
about 1 hour or more per day on child-selected activities. By
2010, this figure dropped to 40%. At the same time, the per-
centage of teachers reporting that their class spends more than
3 hours daily on whole-class activities more than doubled,
from 15% in 1998 to 32% in 2010. When looking only at full-
day classrooms, we find the drop in child-selected activities is
even more pronounced (a 28-percentage-point decrease).
Didactic instructional activities. The next set of items in
Table 4 focuses on the use of worksheets, workbooks, and
textbooks in kindergarten classrooms. Daily use of textbooks
in kindergarten more than doubled for both reading and math.
For instance, only 11% of teachers in 1998 reported using a
basal reader daily, compared with 26% of teachers in 2010.
We also observe substantial increases in daily use of work-
sheets, up 17 percentage points for reading and 15 for math.
The heightened use of textbooks and worksheets in kindergar-
ten is evident in both half-day and full-day settings.
It is worthwhile to consider these trends within the context
of the complete set of items measuring approaches for teach-
ing literacy and math. These are presented in the lower panels
Appendix A2 and Appendix A3 and are sorted by the change
in the likelihood that a teacher reported a particular approach
TABLE 3
Classroom Organization and Materials
All students Half day Full day
Interest area 1998 2010 Difference 1998 2010 Difference 1998 2010 Difference
Kindergarten teachers: Does your classroom have the following interest areas or centers for activities?
Reading area with books 100 99 -1 100 99 -1 100 100 0
Listening center 86 80 -6*** 87 81 -6** 84 77 -7*
Writing center 91 90 -1 92 90 -2 88 89 1
Math area with manipulatives 97 95 -2** 98 95 -3*** 95 95 0
Puzzle or block area 99 93 -6*** 99 93 -6*** 100 96 -4***
Water or sand table 49 24 -25*** 50 23 -27*** 46 29 -17***
Computer area 86 84 -2 89 86 -3 81 72 -9*
Science or nature area 64 42 -22*** 68 42 -26*** 58 45 -13***
Dramatic play area 87 58 -29*** 88 57 -31*** 86 60 -26***
Art area 92 71 -21*** 93 69 -24*** 90 77 -13***
First-grade teachers: How often do children use the following materials or resources in your class?
Art materials 21 18 -3** 80 58 -22*** 1 4 3***
Musical instruments 0 1 1* 15 8 -7*** 56 75 19***
Costumes 1 0 -1* 4 2 -2*** 73 81 8***
Cooking/food-related items 1 2 1 5 4 -1 40 59 19***
Science equipment 8 4 -4*** 42 29 -13*** 8 5 -3*
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten and first-grade teachers in public schools. Figures shown are percentages rounded to closest percentage point. Full day
is defined as 5 or more hours per day. All figures are weighted at the teacher level using appropriate sampling weights.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
10
was used weekly. For literacy, we observe substantial
increases across a diverse set of measures, but the largest
increases are in the use of textbooks, writing words from dic-
tation to improve spelling, writing stories and reports, and
using workbooks and worksheets. We observe drops for only
three (of 20) instructional approaches (e.g., a 3-percentage-
point drop in the likelihood children practice writing the let-
ters of the alphabet at least once a week, from 98% to 95%).
When examining approaches to math instruction (lower
panel of Appendix A3), we find significant increases in
eight of 17 of the instructional approaches mentioned. Here,
too, the largest increases are in time spent using textbooks
and worksheets as well as time spent completing math prob-
lems on the chalkboard. That said, teachers also reported
increases in less didactic approaches, such as using music to
understand math concepts or explaining how problems are
solved. Overall, the results are consistent with an increase
in time spent on reading and mathematics instruction
broadly, with particularly large gains in time spent on rote,
didactic tasks.
PE and recess. The bottom panel of Table 4 shows how
frequently kindergarteners are exposed to PE and recess.
Contrary to the hypothesis that kindergarten classrooms in
the later period would have fewer opportunities for play or
physical activities, we observe no change in the percent-
age of students who participated in daily PE and document
a 9-percentage-point increase in the percentage of students
who had recess daily. We do note drops in PE and recess for
children attending half-day programs, although these are not
statistically significant.
Assessment. In the top panel of Table 5, we show how kinder-
garten teachers’ views about assessment have changed over
time. In 1998, more than 95% of teachers indicated that they
valued children’s improvements over time, their effort, their
classroom behavior, and their ability to follow directions. We
observe very little change across these measures over time.
We do document changes in the importance teachers placed
on two factors: First, the percentage of teachers who indicated
they consider an individual child’s achievement relative to
local, state, or professional standards to be very important or
essential rose from 57% to 79%. Second, we see a similar
increase in the importance teachers place on children’s perfor-
mance relative to their classmates, up from 47% to 67%.
Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?
Our second research question aims to directly address the
question posed in the papers title. The recent release of first-
grade data for the most recent wave of the ECLS data allows us
to examine the extent to which the first-grade experience has
changed, comparing responses from first-grade teachers in the
1999-2000 school year and the 2011-2012 school year. We are
also able to compare how much kindergarten in 2010 mirrors
first grade in 1999.
The bottom panel of Table 2 shows the frequency of subject
instruction reported by first-grade teachers across the two
TABLE 4
Kindergarten Teachers’ Reported Approaches to Instruction
All kindergarten teachers Full day Half day
Instructional approach 1998 2010 Difference 1998 2010 Difference 1998 2010 Difference
In a typical day, children spend about 1 hour
or more on child-selected activities (1 = yes)
54 40 -14*** 72 44 -28*** 29 12 -17***
In a typical day, children spend 3 or more
hours on teacher-directed whole-class
activities (1 = yes)
15 32 17*** 22 37 15*** 4 7 3*
Do children in your classroom do the following activities daily?
Work in a reading workbook or on a
worksheet
28 45 17*** 30 47 17*** 21 34 13**
Read from basal reading texts 11 26 15*** 13 28 15*** 7 13 6**
Do math worksheets 20 35 15*** 24 37 13*** 12 27 15***
Do math problems from their textbooks 8 18 10*** 10 19 9*** 3 15 12***
Frequency of physical education/recess
Children in your class usually have
physical education daily (1 = yes)
21 21 0 23 23 0 19 14 -5
Children in your class usually have
recess daily (1 = yes)
73 82 9*** 81 88 7** 62 55 -7
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten teachers in public schools. Figures shown are percentages rounded to closest percentage point. All figures are weighted
at the teacher level using appropriate sampling weights. Full day is defined as 5 or more hours per day.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
11
cohorts. We begin by comparing kindergarten with first grade
only in the 1998 wave. We find large differences between these
two grades, especially with respect to time spent on nonaca-
demic subjects. For instance, in 1998, 34% of kindergarten
teachers reported daily exposure to music, and 27% reported
daily exposure to art. In contrast, among first-grade teachers in
1999, those figures were 7% and 4%, respectively. This suggests
that in the late ’90s, kindergarteners were 5 times more likely to
experience daily music lessons and nearly 7 times more likely to
experience daily art than first graders. Roughly 60% of kinder-
garten teachers reported teaching dance/creative movement on a
weekly basis in 1998, and about 40% reported doing a weekly
theater/drama activity. Among first-grade teachers, the rates
were far lower (25% and 11%, respectively). Although the dif-
ferences we describe could, in theory, reflect changes between
the 1998 and 1999 school years that applied to both kindergarten
and first-grade classrooms, we assume that we are measuring
differences in children’s typical learning experiences as they
progressed one school year from kindergarten to first grade.
Turning to changes in first-grade teachers’ reports of sub-
ject instruction between 1999 and 2011, we find patterns that
mirror those observed among kindergarten teachers. In other
words, we see smaller (but still significant) drops over time
in first-grade teachers reporting daily music or art instruc-
tion and increases in teachers reporting they never teach
dance, theater, or foreign language.
Similarly, in the bottom panel of Table 3, we show that
first-grade teachers reported large drops in the frequency
with which their students use materials related to nonaca-
demic instruction. For example, the likelihood a first-grade
teacher reported using art materials in his or her classroom
on a weekly basis dropped from 80% to 58%, and the likeli-
hood of using science materials weekly dropped from 42%
to 29%. Similarly, the likelihood that first-grade teachers
reported their students never use musical instruments or
cooking materials each increased by 19 percentage points.
Taken together, these findings suggest that in the late ’90s,
kindergarten and first-grade classrooms differed in their focus
and time use. Since then, both grade levels experienced reduc-
tions in time spent on the arts and potentially science as well.
Although kindergarten classrooms did become more sim-
ilar to first-grade classrooms, kindergarten teachers were
still somewhat more likely to have daily social studies
instruction and substantially more likely to have daily art
and music instruction.
The bottom panel of Table 5 compares the frequency of stan-
dardized testing reported by kindergarten teachers in 2010 to
that of first-grade teachers in 1999. Recall that in 1998, kinder-
garten teachers were not asked this question. We find that in
2010, just under 30% of kindergarten teachers report using
standardized tests at least once per month. By comparison, only
11% of first-grade teachers in 1999 reported using standardized
TABLE 5
Teachers’ Assessment Philosophy and Practices
Kindergarten First grade
Assessment 1998 2010 Difference 1999 2011 Difference
How important is each of the following in evaluating the children in your class? (percentage of teachers responding very important or
essential)
Individual child’s achievement relative
to the rest of the class
47 67 20*** 52 60 8***
Individual child’s achievement relative
to local, state, or professional standards
57 79 22*** 59 79 20***
Individual improvement or progress
over past performance
97 99 2*** 98 98 0
Effort 98 98 0 98 97 -1
Classroom behavior or conduct 96 96 0 94 98 4***
Cooperativeness with other children 94 94 0 92 91 -1
Ability to follow directions 98 98 0 98 98 0
How often do you use state or local standardized tests to assess your children?
Never 27 -4*** 31 22 -9***
1 or 2 times per year
a
44 -14*** 58
Once or twice a month
a
23 15*** 8
At least weekly 6 3*** 3 6 3**
Note. Samples limited to teachers in public schools. Bottom panel compares kindergarten teachers in 2010 to first-grade teachers in 1999. Figures shown are
percentages rounded to the closest percentage point. All figures are weighted at the teacher level, using appropriate sampling weights.
a. In first grade of 2011, the response options were changed so that it was not possible to construct comparable estimates for the middle two categories
(1 or 2 times per year and once or twice a month).
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
Bassok et al.
12
tests this frequently. On the dimension of standardized test use,
our results suggest that kindergarten classrooms in the later
period devote considerably more time to standardized tests than
first-grade teachers did 11 years earlier.
Differences in Patterns Across Schools
The preceding analyses highlighted substantial changes
across nearly all measures examined. To assess whether these
patterns of change differed across schools based on their
demographic composition, we ran a set of exploratory logistic
regressions. Table 6 presents results from these analyses, in
which we consider 15 measures that have changed meaning-
fully between 1998 and 2010 (e.g., beliefs about reading in
kindergarten, use of textbooks, time spent on art) and assess
whether changes were more pronounced in schools serving
higher proportions of children eligible for FRPL or children
who are non-White. Results from similar logistic regressions
for all measures presented in Tables 1 through 5 are presented
in supplementary online appendices. The pattern of those
results is largely similar to the pattern described here.
We present the odds of each kindergarten outcome for
each school type in each period. For instance, the first col-
umn examines the likelihood that teachers agree or strongly
agree that incoming kindergarteners need to know the alpha-
bet. We see that in 1998, the odds of a teacher holding this
belief was .51 among teachers working in schools in the
highest quartile with respect to children eligible for FRPL.
In schools serving relatively fewer eligible children, the
odds are only .34. The statistically significant difference
indicates that teachers serving more school lunch-eligible
children were more likely to hold this belief.
Above, we already showed that on average, teachers in
2010 were far more likely to hold this belief than their counter-
parts in 1998. The results here indicate that although these
increases were not isolated to those teachers serving the most
school lunch-eligible children—we see substantial increases
across both groups—they were more pronounced in schools
serving the most low-income children. By 2010, the “gap” in
this belief for schools serving more low-income children had
broadened substantially, from 0.17 to 1.00. Patterns are quite
similar when we consider schools based on their racial compo-
sition. To summarize, then, the results from this first column
indicate that in both periods, teachers working in schools serv-
ing more FRPL-eligible or non-White children were signifi-
cantly more likely to believe alphabet knowledge was critical
for incoming kindergarteners. While both groups experienced
substantial increases in this belief by 2010, the gap between
them had broadened substantially.
It is important to note that our approach to examining inter-
actions is based on the odds ratio metric and that had we used
a probability metric, the interaction terms of interest may sug-
gest different patterns (Buis, 2010). As an illustration, the raw
probability that a kindergarten teacher indicated that knowing
the alphabet was important or very important in 1998 was .33
among teachers working in schools with the most children eli-
gible for FRPL, compared to .27 for schools serving lower per-
centages of lunch-eligible children. By 2010, the analogous
figures were .69 and .60. For this particular outcome, using a
probability metric rather than an odds measure still suggests
that teachers working in schools serving the most low-income
children experienced a larger increase in this outcome over
time (.37 versus .33). However, this difference is modest and
not statistically significant. Given the potential for a different
interpretation depending on metric, we also considered the raw
probabilities for all outcomes considered in Table 6 and briefly
summarize those trends after presenting the results based on
the odds metric.
Turning back to the findings presented in Table 6, we see
that the patterns for most variables mirror those described above
for alphabet knowledge. In 25 of 30 cases, we find that teachers
in schools serving more low-income and more non-White chil-
dren are more likely to report higher academic expectations,
didactic approaches to teaching, and fewer centers for hands-on
learning (although these gaps vary in magnitude and are statisti-
cally significant for only 16 of 30 cases). By 2010, we observe
across-the-board increases in academic beliefs, focus on assess-
ments, classroom structure, and use of didactic instructional
approaches. As with the earlier period, teachers in schools serv-
ing more low-income and more non-White children are still
more likely to hold these beliefs; in all 30 cases, the direction of
the difference is consistent with this pattern, and these differ-
ences are statistically significant in 21 of 30 cases.
To fully address our research question, we examine
whether the changes in the kindergarten experience over this
period systematically differed in schools serving high propor-
tions of children eligible for FRPL or children who are non-
White. Specifically, we test whether the gaps across schools,
which were observed across both periods, broadened or nar-
rowed over time. We do find that gaps broadened substantially
with respect to teacher beliefs and textbook use. For instance,
the “marginal effect” of being in a school serving a high per-
centage of FRPL-eligible children with respect to believing
most children should learn to read in kindergarten is 0.28 in
1998 but 2.87 in 2010. Marginal effects for daily textbook use
for math increased from .04 to .16. In other words, gaps that
were already present in 1998 were exacerbated by 2010.
Notably, other gaps, for instance those with respect to
having access to particular learning centers (e.g., art area,
science area) actually narrowed. For instance, in 1998, kin-
dergarten teachers in schools serving more non-White chil-
dren were less likely to report their classroom had an art area
relative to those teachers serving lower percentages of non-
White children. Although this pattern was still present in
2010, the gap had narrowed substantially. The same pattern
also emerges for a teacher reporting his or her classroom had
a science area. However, even in those cases where we
observe narrowing, we still saw across-the-board drops in
13
TABLE 6
Logit Models Predicting Changes in Teachers’ Beliefs and Assessment Practices 1998 to 2010, by School Demographic Composition Measures
Teacher beliefs Textbook use Class time Classroom space Art/Music
Variable
Knowing
alphabet
before
K is
important
Most
children
should
learn
to read
in K
Formal
reading/
math in
preschool
is
important
Achievement
relative to
state/local
standards is
important
Read
from
basal
reading
texts
daily
Do math
problems
from
textbooks
daily
3 or
more
hours/
day on
whole-
class
activities
More
than 1
hour/day
on child
selected
activities
Science
is taught
at least
weekly
Classroom
has
science
or nature
area
Classroom
has
dramatic
play area
Classroom
has water
or sand
table
Classroom
has art
area
Art is
taught
at least
3 times
per
week
Music
is
taught
at least
3 times
per
week
Differential changes
by percentage
eligible for FRPL
1.76 9.47 1.08 12.91 1.13 0.97
1998, low % FRPL 0.34 0.34 0.36 1.11 0.08 0.05 0.10 1.20 24.41 1.88 5.39 0.77 9.62 1.25 0.92
1998, high % FRPL 0.51 0.62 0.73 1.66 0.14 0.09 0.17 1.23 13.01 0.12 -4.08* -0.32 -3.29 0.12 -0.05
Difference in 1998 0.17* 0.28** 0.37** 0.54* 0.06 0.04 0.08* 0.03 -11.39* 0.81 1.84 0.38 3.33 0.12 0.19
2010, low % FRPL 1.43 3.68 1.44 3.53 0.27 0.16 0.36 0.57 22.55 0.53 0.74 0.14 1.21 0.06 0.11
2010, high % FRPL 2.43 6.55 3.02 5.00 0.49 0.33 0.61 0.49 19.00 -0.28** -1.10*** -0.24*** -2.12*** -0.06** -0.08**
Difference in 2010 1.00*** 2.87** 1.58*** 1.48* 0.22*** 0.17** 0.24** -0.08 -3.55 -0.40 2.98 0.08 1.17 -0.18 -0.03
Difference in
difference (2010
- 1998)
0.82** 2.59** 1.21*** 0.93 0.15* 0.13* 0.16 -0.11 7.84 1.76 9.47 1.08 12.91 1.13 0.97
Differential changes by percentage non-White
1998, low % non-
white
0.32 0.34 0.37 1.26 0.08 0.06 0.12 1.34 21.14 2.07 8.33 1.11 16.28 1.18 0.96
1998, high % non-
White
0.64 0.63 0.84 1.42 0.15 0.07 0.13 1.03 11.56 1.02 5.11 0.64 6.43 1.28 1.16
Difference in 1998 0.33*** 0.29** 0.47*** 0.15 0.06* 0.01 0.01 -0.31 -9.58* -1.06*** -3.21* -0.47** -9.85*** 0.10 0.20
2010, low % non-
White
1.42 3.96 1.50 3.58 0.27 0.15 0.37 0.59 21.74 0.78 1.90 0.38 3.23 0.11 0.18
2010, high % non-
White
2.86 5.56 2.99 4.35 0.45 0.42 0.63 0.49 21.65 0.57 0.57 0.10 1.14 0.10 0.15
Difference in 2010 1.44*** 1.61 1.49*** 0.77 0.18** 0.27*** 0.27*** -0.10 -0.09 -0.21 -1.33*** -0.28*** -2.09*** -0.01 -0.02
Difference in
difference (2010
- 1998)
1.11*** 1.31 1.02* 0.62 0.12 0.25*** 0.26** 0.21 9.49 0.85** 1.88 0.19 7.76** -0.11 -0.22
Note. Models include all public school kindergarten teachers and include controls for school characteristics (e.g., total enrollment, urbanicity, region of the country, provision of preschool) as well as teacher characteristics (e.g., gender,
race, experience, certification). Sample sizes are between 3,700 and 4,000, rounded to the nearest 50 as per National Center for Education Statistics requirements. FRPL = free or reduced-price lunch.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
Bassok et al.
14
access to these centers, and we find gaps that suggest schools
serving fewer low-income and non-White children are still
more likely to offer these types of centers.
Taken together, the results shown in Table 6 show that in
1998, there were significant differences in kindergarten
teachers’ beliefs and practices based on schools’ demo-
graphic composition, with those schools serving more low-
income and non-White children generally reporting a higher
focus on academic and didactic instruction. Our findings
indicate that the large average changes we document in this
paper occurred across the board. In 2010, the differences
across school demographics were still present and in many
cases were even larger than before, although in a few cases
we do also find some narrowing.
As mentioned above, our analysis focuses on the odds
ratio metric, which can produce a different pattern of interac-
tion results and indeed does for some of the outcomes consid-
ered in Table 6. That said, when we consider changes over
time in the raw percentage of teachers reporting each of these
beliefs or practices, we still find that teachers in schools serv-
ing the most children eligible for FRPL and those serving the
most non-White children reported greater increases with
respect to textbook use and teacher-directed instruction and
also find larger drops in music, art, dramatic play, and so on.
In additional models, available upon request, we also
examined whether our findings were sensitive to more flex-
ible regression specifications. These included models in
which all covariates were interacted with the indicator for
the 2010 cohort, to allow for changes over time in the rela-
tionship between school and teacher characteristics and kin-
dergarten classroom characteristics, and models in which we
simultaneously considered school poverty and school racial
composition. These models all yielded substantively similar
results, although larger standard errors led to fewer statisti-
cally significant coefficients.
Discussion
This paper is the first to provide nationally representative
empirical evidence on the changing nature of public school
kindergarten over a period characterized by heightened
accountability pressures in elementary schools as well as
heightened investments in early childhood education. We
consider changes along five broad dimensions and find
meaningful shifts across all five. We show that relative to
their counterparts in 1998, public school kindergarten teach-
ers in 2010 are far more likely to believe that academic
instruction should begin prior to kindergarten entry. They
are also more than twice as likely to expect that most chil-
dren will leave their classrooms knowing to read. We observe
a corresponding increase in literacy and math content
instruction in kindergarten classrooms, with particularly
large increases in time spent on “challenging” topics previ-
ously considered outside the scope of kindergarten.
Given the substantial shift toward full-day kindergarten
over the period investigated, it was conceivable that we
would find increases in time devoted to all subjects.
However, this was not the case. We document substantial
reductions in time spent on art, music, and science (but not
social studies, PE, or recess).
Further, teachers in 2010 were far less likely to indicate
that their classroom included various activity centers, includ-
ing art areas, dramatic play areas, science areas, or water/
sand tables. These trends are consistent with the possibility
that a heightened focus on literacy and math instruction
crowded out coverage of other subjects. Taken together with
the drops we document in child-selected activities and the
increases in teacher-directed instruction as well as the
heightened use of textbooks, workbooks, and worksheets,
our results may also suggest important shifts in the peda-
gogical approaches to kindergarten instruction.
We document striking increases in the use of standardized
tests in early elementary classrooms. In 2010, roughly 30%
of public school kindergarten teachers reported using stan-
dardized tests at least once a month. This is 2.6 times more
often than the rate reported by first-grade teachers in 1999.
Further, there was a 20-percentage-point increase in both
kindergarten and first-grade teachers indicating that they
consider children’s performance relative to state or local
standards very important or essential.
Overall, our results suggest that public school kindergar-
ten classrooms became increasingly similar in structure and
focus to typical first-grade classrooms of the late ’90s but that
first-grade classrooms have also shifted away from art,
music, and science instruction and increased their emphasis
on assessment. We do note that our exploratory analysis of
changes to the first-grade teaching practices reflects responses
from teachers of kindergarteners who were not retained and
may yield somewhat distinct patterns if the first-grade teach-
ers of children retained in kindergarten were also included.
Finally, our findings indicate that although changes to kin-
dergarten classrooms were pervasive, in many cases they
were more pronounced among schools serving high percent-
ages of low-income and non-White children, particularly with
respect to teacher expectations and didactic instruction.
Implications and Next Steps
It is not yet clear how much the large changes docu-
mented in this study have impacted children’s development.
Existing evidence is conflicting, with some studies suggest-
ing that a heightened focus on academic instruction will
improve children’s learning trajectories and narrow achieve-
ment gaps, and others suggesting that a focus on early aca-
demic content is unnecessary and potentially harmful.
A number of recent papers show that children’s academic
skills during early childhood—particularly their math skills—
are the strongest predictors of their later performance on a
Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?
15
number of cognitive and noncognitive outcomes (Claessens,
Duncan, & Engel, 2009; Claessens & Engel, 2013; Duncan
et al., 2007; Watts, Duncan, Siegler, & Davis-Kean, 2014).
There is also evidence that exposure to academic content in pre-
school and kindergarten (particularly, engaging and advanced
content) can be beneficial for student learning (Claessens et al.,
in press; Clements & Sarama, 2011; Engel et al., 2015).
Magnuson, Ruhm, and Waldfogel (2007), for example, show
that more academically oriented early elementary experiences
can help children who did not attend preschool catch up with
their peers.
At the same time, studies have also suggested that an
early focus on literacy instruction and academic content
more broadly has negative consequences (Copple &
Bredekamp, 2009; Huffman & Speer, 2000; Marcon, 1999;
Stipek, Feiler, Daniels, & Milburn, 1995). Stipek (2006), for
example, suggests that a heightened focus on academics
may be stressful for children and may negatively impact
their motivation, self-confidence, and attitudes toward
school. Nobel laureate James Heckman argues that the focus
on cognitive and academic skill building in early childhood
programs is misplaced and that the long-term benefits of
early childhood interventions are driven through their impact
on noncognitive social and behavioral skill building
(Heckman, Krueger, & Friedman, 2004).
The emergence of the Common Core State Standards, which
provide specific content standards for kindergartens in literacy
and mathematics, has led to vigorous debates about appropriate
instruction in the early grades (Carlsson-Paige, McLaughlin, &
Almon, 2015). It is important to point out, as do the researchers
embedded in these debates, that engaging literacy and math
instruction need not be at odds with “play” and other types of
pedagogical approaches considered developmentally appropri-
ate in early childhood (Bassok, Claessens, & Engel, 2014;
Clements & Sarama, 2014; Pondiscio, 2015). Indeed, the defi-
nition of developmentally appropriate instruction has evolved
over time. Increasingly, developmental scientists agree that
there are ways to meaningfully engage young children in liter-
acy and math learning and that the effectiveness of such efforts
depends on the pedagogical approach, the quality of teaching,
and the connection of the instruction to young children’s curios-
ity (Katz, 2015; Snow & Pizzolongo, 2014).
To summarize, the key contribution of the current study is
that it provides careful documentation of very large changes
in kindergarten over a relatively short, 12-year period. Our
findings suggest a shift toward more challenging (and poten-
tially more engaging) literacy and math content. However,
they also highlight a concerning drop in time spent on art,
music, science, and child-selected activities, as well as much
more frequent use of standardized testing.
Further research is needed, and is currently under way, to
understand how much the large changes documented in this
study impacted children’s development in both cognitive and
social domains during the kindergarten year and beyond.
Additional research is also needed to better understand the
drivers of these changes, focusing in particular on the height-
ened role of high-stakes accountability as well as the expanded
access to school-based public preschool and changes in home
parenting practices. A better understanding of the causes for
these changes is critical, as the effects of these changes may
depend on the extent to which the changes are driven by pres-
sures to meet heightened accountability requirements in the
later grades versus efforts to be responsive to children who are
starting kindergarten with more academic exposure and class-
room experiences than their counterparts in the late ’90s.
APPENDIX A1
Comparison of School/Class, Teacher, and Child Characteristics,
1998 to 2010
Characteristic 1998 2010
School/class characteristics
Full-day kindergarten (K) 0.61 0.84
Small class (18 students) 0.25 0.30
School offers preK 0.36 0.52
Large school (>750 students) 0.28 0.24
Small school (<250 students) 0.06 0.02
Northeast 0.13 0.12
Midwest 0.16 0.21
South 0.44 0.47
West 0.27 0.21
Teacher characteristics
New teacher (3 years) 0.16 0.13
Male 0.02 0.02
White 0.81 0.81
Hispanic 0.10 0.10
Black 0.07 0.06
Other race 0.03 0.03
Elementary certification 0.88 0.84
Early childhood certification 0.56 0.58
Child characteristics
Male 0.51 0.51
White 0.58 0.52
Hispanic 0.19 0.25
Black 0.16 0.13
Asian 0.03 0.04
Speaks a non-English language 0.22 0.24
Does not speak English 0.03 0.03
Attended formal preK 0.68 0.67
Attended preK/K in same building 0.12 0.17
Mother graduated high school 0.86 0.87
Mother graduated college 0.23 0.31
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten teachers in public schools. All means
are weighted using appropriate sampling weights. Figures are presented as
proportions. School/class and teacher characteristics were estimated using
the teacher-level data set leveraged in this study. Child characteristics were
estimated using a student-level data set.
16
APPENDIX A2
Kindergarten Literacy Content Coverage and Instructional Activities, 1998 and 2010
Taught daily Taught at least weekly Never taught
ELA Topic/Activity 1998 2010 Difference 1998 2010 Difference 1998 2010 Difference
Topic
Composing and writing sentences 28 56 28*** 63 94 31*** 26 3 -23***
Conventional spelling 18 42 24*** 45 76 31*** 44 17 -27***
Composing and writing stories with an
understandable beginning, middle, and end
7 18 11*** 26 55 29*** 52 26 -26***
Identifying the main idea and parts of a
story
27 34 7*** 74 87 13*** 12 4 -8***
Using context clues for comprehension 35 45 10*** 81 92 11*** 11 4 -7***
Rhyming words and word families 25 44 19*** 88 96 8*** 1 1 0
Making predictions based on text 40 48 8*** 92 96 4*** 2 1 -1**
Communicating complete ideas orally 66 66 0 95 97 2 1 1 0
Remembering and following directions that
include a series of actions
63 67 4* 94 95 1* 1 1 0
Common prepositions, such as over, under,
up, and down
21 24 3 65 66 1 8 8 0
Matching letters to sounds 84 88 4*** 99 99 0* 0 1 1*
Alphabet and letter recognition 90 87 -3* 99 98 -1*** 1 2 1***
Writing own name (first and last) 82 84 2 95 93 -2* 2 4 2**
Conventions of print (left-to-right
orientation, book holding)
76 70 -6*** 96 91 -5*** 1 4 3***
Activity
Read from basal reading texts 11 26 15*** 30 57 27*** 63 36 -27***
Write words from dictation to improve
spelling
11 21 10*** 44 69 25*** 38 14 -24***
Compose and write stories or reports 16 27 11*** 54 71 17*** 21 11 -10***
Work in a reading workbook or on a
worksheet
28 45 17*** 70 86 16*** 20 7 -13***
Read silently 38 48 10*** 70 83 13*** 20 10 -10***
Write with encouragement to use invented
spellings, if needed
46 62 16*** 85 96 11*** 4 1 -3***
Retell stories 17 27 10*** 78 88 10*** 0 0 0
Read aloud 43 62 19*** 87 97 10*** 5 1 -4***
Listen to you read stories but they don’t see
the print
41 41 0 65 72 7*** 19 13 -6***
Write stories in a journal 29 31 2 69 74 5** 14 11 -3
Work in mixed achievement groups on
language arts activities
46 47 1 78 82 4* 9 6 -3***
Read books they have chosen for
themselves
57 60 3 92 95 3** 3 1 -2***
Peer tutoring 19 20 1 54 57 3 20 19 -1
Work on phonics 84 92 8*** 99 100 1** 0 0 0*
Discuss new or difficult vocabulary 60 63 3* 98 98 0 0 0 0
Listen to you read stories where they see
the print (e.g., Big Books)
74 75 1 97 97 0 0 0 0
Do an activity or project related to a book
or story
17 19 2 71 71 0 4 4 0
Practice writing the letters of the alphabet 69 68 -1 98 95 -3*** 0 1 1
Perform plays and skits 1 1 0 12 8 -4*** 22 36 14***
Dictate stories to a teacher, aide, or
volunteer
16
20 4* 70 66 -4* 3 10 7***
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten teachers in public schools. Figures shown are percentages rounded to closest percentage point. All figures are weighted at the teacher level
using appropriate sampling weights. ELA = English language arts.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
17
APPENDIX A3
Kindergarten Math Content Coverage and Instructional Activities, 1998 and 2010
Taught daily Taught at least weekly Never taught
Math Topic/Activity 1998 2010 Difference 1998 2010 Difference 1998 2010 Difference
Topic
Writing math equations to solve word problems 3 7 4*** 16 38 22*** 60 30 -30***
Performing simple data collection and graphing 11 19 8*** 39 56 17*** 7 3 -4***
Place value 28 42 14*** 41 58 17*** 45 29 -16***
Counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s 31 45 14*** 71 84 13*** 10 5 -5***
Subtracting single-digit numbers 13 17 4** 53 66 13*** 17 7 -10***
Recognizing the value of coins and currency 15 25 10*** 47 59 12*** 10 15 5**
Adding single-digit numbers 19 25 6*** 68 78 10*** 7 3 -4***
Estimating probability 2 3 1* 10 20 10*** 60 39 -21***
Writing all numbers between 1 and 100 5 8 3*** 19 29 10*** 47 31 -16***
Reading simple graphs 19 27 8*** 57 66 9*** 3 2 -1
Reading two-digit numbers 46 57 11*** 80 87 7*** 10 5 -5***
Reading three-digit numbers 20 23 3 33 40 7** 51 44 -7***
Counting beyond 100 21 24 3* 40 46 6*** 36 32 -4
Using measuring instruments accurately 3 3 0 20 25 5** 20 17 -3
Ordinal numbers (e.g., 1st, 2nd, 3rd) 24 26 2 59 63 4 3 3 0
Writing numbers between 1 and 10 32 38 6*** 85 88 3** 2 3 1**
Identifying relative quantity (e.g., equal, most, less,
more)
24 29 5** 79 82 3* 2 1 -1
Sorting objects into subgroups according to a rule 10 12 2 63 65 2 3 3 0
Making, copying, or extending patterns 26 29 3 76 77 1 2 2 0
Estimating quantities 7 8 1 39 40 1 10 12 2
Telling time 14 18 4** 43 44 1 17 20 3
Fractions (e.g., recognizing that 2/4 of a circle is colored) 2 1 -1 11 11 0 43 47 4
Correspondence between number and quantity 47 51 4** 94 93 -1 1 2 1*
Ordering objects by size or other properties 8 9 1 58 57 -1 2 2 0
Recognizing and naming geometric shapes 23 25 2 70 69 -1 4 4 0
Activity
Do math problems from their textbooks 8 18 10*** 22 38 16*** 74 56 -18***
Complete math problems on the chalkboard 9 17 8*** 41 54 13*** 35 27 -8***
Do math worksheets 20 35 15*** 73 85 12*** 7 2 -5***
Explain how a math problem is solved 20 31 11*** 65 77 12*** 8 4 -4***
Solve math problems in small groups or with a partner 11 19 8*** 56 68 12*** 12 8 -4***
Use music to understand concepts 6 19 13*** 35 46 11*** 24 20 -4**
Use creative movement or creative drama to understand
math concepts
4 11 7*** 30 37 7*** 26 25 -1
Work on math problems that reflect real-life situations 17 19 2 66 71 5** 7 4 -3**
Peer tutoring 16 15 -1 47 49 2 27 25
-2
Engage in calendar-related activities 93 94 1 98 99 1 0 0 0
Use a calculator for math 1 1 0 4 4 0 76 76 0
Work in mixed achievement groups on math activities 33 30 -3 73 73 0 13 13 0
Count out loud 82 85 3** 100 99 -1 0 0 0
Play math-related games 24 28 4* 86 85 -1 0 1 1*
Work with counting manipulatives to learn basic
operations
31 31 0 94 92 -2* 0 0 0
Work with geometric manipulatives 19 19 0 81 76 -5*** 0 0 0
Work with rulers, measuring cups, spoons, or other
measuring instruments
3 2 -1 25 19 -6*** 7 10 3*
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten teachers in public schools. Figures shown are percentages rounded to closest percentage point. All figures are weighted at the teacher level
using appropriate sampling weights.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
18
APPENDIX A4
Percentage of Kindergarten Teachers Covering Different Topics in Science and Social Studies, 1998 and 2010
Topic 1998 2010 Difference
Science
Dinosaurs and fossils 68 33 -35***
Ecology 77 53 -24***
Sound 64 43 -21***
Human body (e.g., senses, basic systems) 87 66 -21***
Light 60 40 -20***
Solar system and space 61 41 -20***
Machines and motors 38 23 -15***
Magnetism and electricity 56 41 -15***
Water 78 68 -10***
Scientific method 53 44 -9***
Health, safety, nutrition, and personal hygiene 99 93 -6***
Tools and their uses 59 54 -5*
Plants and animals 99 95 -4***
Weather (e.g., rainy, sunny) 99 98 -1
Understanding and measuring temperature 66 69 3
Social studies
Geography 72 65 -7***
Different cultures 92 88 -4**
Community resources (e.g., grocery store,
police)
96 93 -3**
Important figures and events in American
history
92 90 -2
Map-reading skills 66 67 1
Social-problem solving 82 83 1
Reasons for rules, laws, and government 79 85 6***
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten teachers in public schools. Figures shown are percentages rounded to closest percentage point. All figures are weighted
at the teacher level using appropriate sampling weights.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
APPENDIX B1
Kindergarten Teachers’ Beliefs About School Readiness and Kindergarten Learning, 1998 and 2010
Please indicate the extent to which you agree with
the following statements on children’s preparation
for school.
Strongly
disagree
Disagree Neutral Agree
Strongly
agree
1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010
Most children should learn to read in
kindergarten
7 1 32 6 30 14 26 49 5 31
Parents should make sure their kids know the
alphabet before they start kindergarten
4 1 28 11 39 27 24 42 5 20
Children who begin formal reading and math
instruction in preschool will do better in
elementary school
6 1 24 9 36 26 25 35 9 29
Attending preschool is very important for success
in kindergarten
1 1 9 3 27 13 38 33 25 50
Homework should be given to kindergarten
children almost every day
14 10 35 31 15 19 23 27 12 13
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten teachers in public schools. All means are weighted at the teacher level using appropriate sampling weights. Figures
shown are percentages rounded to closest percentage point.
19
APPENDIX B2
Frequency of Subject Instruction in Kindergarten and First Grade, 1998 and 2010
How often do you teach the
following subjects in your
classroom?
Never
Less than once
per week
1-2 times per
week
3-4 times per
week
Daily
1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010
Kindergarten teachers
Reading/language arts 0 0 0 0 1 1 3 2 96 97
Math 0 0 0 0 2 1 14 8 83 91
Social studies 0 1 7 5 39 35 29 34 25 24
Science 0 1 8 5 46 37 27 37 18 20
Music 1 4 6 7 42 63 16 11 34 16
Art 0 3 5 10 41 61 27 15 27 11
Dance/creative movement 11 37 32 20 34 20 11 10 12 12
Theater 18 50 44 29 27 16 7 4 5 2
Foreign language 65 83 18 7 8 5 2 1 8 4
First-grade teachers
Reading/language arts 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 4 98 94
Math 0 0 0 1 1 1 4 5 95 93
Social studies 0 1 5 6 45 41 33 35 17 17
Science 1 1 5 5 45 39 34 38 15 17
Music 2 6 12 9 72 75 6 6 7 4
Art 1 4 12 15 71 73 11 5 4 2
Dance/creative movement 37 52 39 26 19 16 3 3 3 3
Theater 41 59 48 31 10 9 1 1 1 1
Foreign language 78 84 10 6 8 6 1 1 3 3
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten and first-grade teachers in public schools. All means are weighted at the teacher level using appropriate sampling
weights. Figures shown are percentages rounded to closest percentage point.
APPENDIX B3
First-Grade Classroom Organization and Materials
How often are the
following materials or
resources used in your
class? (first-grade teachers)
Not
available
Never
1 time per
month
2-3 times
per month
1-2 times
per week
3-4 times
per week
Daily
1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010
Art materials 0 3 0 1 4 16 15 22 36 29 23 12 21 18
Musical instruments 34 37 22 38 19 13 10 4 14 7 1 0 0 1
Costumes 46 44 28 38 18 15 4 2 3 1 1 0 1 0
Cooking/food-related items 26 33 14 26 42 31 13 6 4 2 0 1 1 2
Science equipment 5 3 2 3 21 30 29 35 24 20 10 5 8 4
Note. Samples limited to first-grade teachers in public schools. All means are weighted at the teacher level using appropriate sampling weights. Figures
shown are percentages rounded to closest percentage point.
APPENDIX B4
Approaches to Instruction in Kindergarten
How much time does your class spend
in the following activities?
No time
Half hour or
less
About 1 hour
About 2
hours
3 hours
1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010
Child-selected activities 2 5 45 55 43 33 9 6 2 1
Whole-class activities 0 0 10 4 41 25 34 39 15 32
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten teachers in public schools. All means are weighted at the teacher level using appropriate sampling weights. Figures
shown are percentages rounded to closest percentage point.
20
APPENDIX B5
Physical Education and Recess in Kindergarten
How often does your class
do the following activities?
Never <1 day/week
1-2 days per
week
3-4 days per
week
Daily
1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010
Physical education 8 3 6 4 51 56 14 15 21 21
Recess 7 7 6 3 14 8 73 82
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten teachers in public schools. All means are weighted at the teacher level using appropriate sampling weights. Figures
shown are percentages rounded to closest percentage point.
APPENDIX B6
Kindergarten Teachers’ Assessment Philosophy and Practices, 1998 and 2010
How important is each of the following in
evaluating the children in your class(es)?
Not important
Somewhat
important
Very important
Extremely
important
1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010
Individual child’s achievement relative to
the rest of class
7 4 46 29 32 36 14 31
Individual child’s achievement relative
to local, state, or professional
standards
6 2 36 19 38 40 19 39
Individual improvement or progress over
past performance
0 0 2 1 28 26 69 73
Effort 0 0 2 2 31 33 66 64
Classroom behavior or conduct 0 0 4 3 36 30 60 67
Cooperativeness with other children 0 0 5 6 41 40 53 54
Ability to follow directions 0 0 2 2 32 30 66 68
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten teachers in public schools. All means are weighted at the teacher level using appropriate sampling weights. Figures
shown are percentages rounded to closest percentage point.
APPENDIX B7
First-Grade Teachers’ Assessment Philosophy and Practices, 1999 and 2011
How important is each of the following in
evaluating the children in your class(es)?
Not important
Somewhat
important
Very important
Extremely
important
1999 2011 1999 2011 1999 2011 1999 2011
Individual child’s achievement relative to
the rest of class
7 8 41 32 35 33 18 26
Individual child’s achievement relative to
local, state, or professional standards
7 2 33 19 38 41 22 38
Individual improvement or progress over
past performance
0 0 2 2 30 26 68 72
Effort 0 0 2 3 29 32 69 66
Classroom behavior or conduct 1 0 5 2 31 28 63 69
Cooperativeness with other children 0 0 7 9 38 42 54 49
Ability to follow directions 0 0 2 2 28 31 69 67
Note. Samples limited to first-grade teachers in public schools. All means are weighted at the teacher level using appropriate sampling weights. Figures
shown are percentages rounded to closest percentage point.
21
APPENDIX B8
Kindergarten Literacy Content Coverage and Instructional Activities (Full distributions), 1998 and 2010
Never
1 time
per month
2-3 times
per month
1-2 times
per week
3-4 times
per week Daily
Topic/Activity 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010
How often is each of the following reading and language arts skills taught in your class(es)?
Composing and writing sentences 26 3 5 1 5 2 19 13 17 26 28 56
Conventional spelling 44 17 6 3 5 4 15 17 12 17 18 42
Composing and writing stories with an
understandable beginning, middle, and end
52 26 11 9 11 10 12 20 7 16 7 18
Identifying the main idea and parts of a story 12 4 4 3 10 7 25 25 22 28 27 34
Using context clues for comprehension 11 4 2 1 6 3 21 18 25 29 35 45
Rhyming words and word families 1 1 2 0 9 4 31 18 31 34 25 44
Making predictions based on text 2 1 2 0 4 3 23 17 29 31 40 48
Communicating complete ideas orally 1 1 1 1 2 2 11 10 19 21 66 66
Remembering and following directions that
include a series of actions
1 1 1 1 3 2 12 10 19 18 63 67
Common prepositions, such as over and
under, up and down
8 8 8 9 18 17 24 23 20 19 21 24
Matching letters to sounds 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 2 13 9 84 88
Alphabet and letter recognition 1 2 0 0 0 0 2 2 8 8 90 87
Writing own name (first and last) 2 4 1 1 2 2 4 4 8 5 82 84
Conventions of print (left-to-right
orientation, book holding)
1 4 1 2 2 2 7 8 13 13 76 70
How often do children in your class(es) do each of the following reading and language arts activities?
Read from basal reading texts 63 36 4 4 3 3 11 14 8 17 11 26
Write words from dictation, to improve
spelling
38 14 9 9 9 9 21 29 12 19 11 21
Compose and write stories or reports 21 11 12 8 13 9 22 23 15 21 16 27
Work in a reading workbook or on a
worksheet
20 7 4 3 6 4 22 17 20 24 28 45
Read silently 20 10 4 3 6 3 16 15 16 20 38 48
Write with encouragement to use invented
spellings, if needed
4 1 5 1 6 2 18 11 21 22 46 62
Retell stories 0 0 7 3 15 8 35 32 26 29 17 27
Read aloud 5 1 3 1 5 1 22 12 22 23 43 62
Listen to you read stories but they don’t see
the print
19 13 11 9 5 5 11 19 13 13 41 41
Write stories in a journal 14 11 8 6 9 8 24 25 16 19 29 31
Read books they have chosen for themselves 9 6 6 5 7 7 14 17 18 18 46 47
Work in mixed achievement groups on
language arts activities
3 1 2 1 3 3 17 15 18 20 57 60
Peer tutoring 20 19 13 12 13 11 22 23 12 15 19 20
Work on phonics 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 1 12 7 84 92
Discuss new or difficult vocabulary 0 0 1 0 1 1 13 11 25 24 60 63
Listen to you read stories where they see the
print (e.g., Big Books)
0 0 0 1 2 2 8 8 15 14 74 75
Do an activity or project related to a book
or story
4 4 8 10 17 15 32 33 22 19 17 19
Practice writing the letters of the alphabet 0 1 0 2 1 2 11 13 19 15 69 68
Perform plays and skits 22 36 46 40 20 16 8 6 2 1 1 1
Dictate stories to a teacher, aide, or
volunteer
3 10 11 13 16 11 36 27 17 18 16 20
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten teachers in public schools. All means are weighted at the teacher level using appropriate sampling weights. Figures shown are percentages
rounded to closest percentage point.
22
APPENDIX B9
Kindergarten Math Content Coverage and Instructional Activities (Full distributions), 1998 and 2010
Never
1 time per
month
2-3 times
per month
1-2 times
per week
3-4 times
per week Daily
Topic/Activity 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010 1998 2010
How often is each of the following math skills taught in your class(es)?
Writing math equations to solve word problems 60 30 13 15 11 16 9 22 4 10 3 7
Performing simple data collection and graphing 7 3 21 13 33 28 21 25 7 12 11 19
Place value 45 29 8 6 6 7 7 9 6 7 28 42
Counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s 10 5 7 3 12 8 23 19 17 19 31 45
Recognizing the value of coins and currency 17 7 14 11 16 16 24 27 16 21 13 17
Subtracting single-digit numbers 10 15 18 11 24 16 22 20 10 14 15 25
Adding single-digit numbers 7 3 9 5 16 13 29 27 20 26 19 25
Estimating probability 60 39 19 23 10 19 6 12 2 4 2 3
Reading simple graphs 47 31 20 24 14 16 10 14 4 7 5 8
Writing all numbers between 1 and 100 3 2 11 8 29 23 27 26 11 13 19 27
Reading two-digit numbers 10 5 4 2 6 6 16 12 18 18 46 57
Reading three-digit numbers 51 44 9 10 6 6 7 9 6 8 20 23
Counting beyond 100 36 32 14 13 11 9 11 12 7 10 21 24
Using measuring instruments accurately 20 17 32 28 28 30 14 16 3 5 3 3
Ordinal numbers (e.g., 1st, second, third) 3 3 14 12 24 22 22 22 13 14 24 26
Writing numbers between 1 and 10 2 3 2 2 11 7 28 23 25 27 32 38
Identifying relative quantity (e.g., equal, most, less, more) 2 1 4 3 15 13 33 28 22 25 24 29
Making, copying, or extending patterns 3 3 7 7 27 25 34 33 20 20 10 12
Sorting objects into subgroups according to a rule 2 2 3 3 19 17 31 29 19 20 26 29
Estimating quantities 10 12 23 21 29 27 24 23 8 9 7 8
Telling time 17 20 21 17 19 19 19 18 10 8 14 18
Correspondence between number and quantity 43 47 30 27 15 15 8 8 2 2 2 1
Ordering objects by size or other properties 1 2 1 1 4 4 18 14 29 28 47 51
Fractions (e.g., recognizing that 2/4 of a circle is colored) 2 2 9 11 31 30 34 33 16 16 8 9
Recognizing and naming geometric shapes 4 4 6 7 20 20 29 27 19 17 23 25
How often do children in your class(es) do each of the following math activities?
Do math problems from their textbooks 74 56 2 3 2 4 8 10 6 10 8 18
Complete math problems on the chalkboard 35 27 11 8 13 11 20 20 12 17 9 17
Do math worksheets 7 2 8 5 12 8 31 25 22 25 20 35
Use music to understand concepts 8 4 12 8 15 12 26 23 18 22 20 31
Explain how a math problem is solved 12 8 12 9 19 16 29 27 17 21 11 19
Solve math problems with in small groups or with a
partner
24 20 21 18 19 16 20 17 9 11 6 19
Use creative movement or creative drama to understand
math concepts
26 25 23 22 21 17 19 18 7 8 4 11
Work on math problems that reflect real-life situations 7 4 10 9 18 17 29 29 20 23 17 19
Engage in calendar-related activities 27 25 15 14 12 12 20 21 12 13 16 15
Peer tutoring 0 0 1 0 1 0 2 1 4 4 93 94
Use a calculator for math 76 76 14 15 6 6 2 2 1 1 1 1
Count out loud 13 13 6 6 8 8 20 21 20 22 33 30
Work in mixed achievement groups on math activities 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 3 13 11 82 85
Work with counting manipulatives to learn basic
operations
0 1 4 4 10 11 35 30 27 27 24 28
Play math-related games 0 0 1 1 5 6 25 26 38 36 31 31
Work with geometric manipulatives 0 0 4 7 15 17 34 34 28 24 19 19
Work with rulers, measuring cups, spoons, or other
measuring instruments
7 10 35 40 33 31 17 13 5 4 3 2
Note. Samples limited to kindergarten teachers in public schools. All means are weighted at the teacher level using appropriate sampling weights. Figures shown are percentages
rounded to closest percentage point.
23
APPENDIX C1
Kindergarten Teachers’ Beliefs About School Readiness and Kindergarten Learning, Marginal Effects From Logit Models
Readiness beliefs Academic skills Self-regulation Social skills Other skills
Variable
Most
children
should
learn
to read
in K
Knowing
alphabet
before
K is
important
Formal
reading/
math in
preschool
is
important
Attending
preK is
important
for
success
in K
Homework
should be
given to K
children
daily
Knows
most
letters
Identifies
primary
colors
and
shapes
Can
count to
20
Can
follow
directions
Sits still
and pays
attention
Finishes
tasks
Is not
disruptive
Takes
turns
and
shares
Is
sensitive
to
others’
feelings
Good
problem-
solving
skills
Able
to use
pencil and
paintbrush
Communicates
verbally
Knows
the
English
language
Differential changes by percentage eligible for FRPL
1998, low %
FRPL
0.34 0.34 0.36 1.43 0.31 0.19 0.44 0.10 4.02 1.67 1.17 3.98 2.71 1.55 0.46 0.53 6.55 1.05
1998, high
% FRPL
0.62 0.51 0.73 2.45 0.88 0.27 0.63 0.21 3.96 1.48 1.28 3.97 3.27 1.94 0.72 0.60 6.64 0.84
Difference
in 1998
0.28** 0.17* 0.37** 1.02* 0.57** 0.08 0.19* 0.11** -0.06 -0.19 0.11 -0.01 0.56 0.39 0.26* 0.07 0.09 -0.20
2010, low %
FRPL
3.68 1.43 1.44 4.56 0.46 0.79 1.31 0.41 9.82 3.22 1.83 7.56 6.58 2.68 0.91 1.90 13.28 1.50
2010, high
% FRPL
6.55 2.43 3.02 7.61 1.53 1.33 1.81 0.85 13.38 4.19 1.59 10.71 5.79 2.37 1.02 3.45 15.03 1.38
Difference
in 2010
2.87** 1.00*** 1.58*** 3.05** 1.07*** 0.54*** 0.50* 0.44*** 3.56 0.97 -0.24 3.15 -0.79 -0.31 0.11 1.55** 1.75 -0.11
Difference in
difference
(2010
- 1998)
2.59** 0.82** 1.21*** 2.03 0.49 0.46** 0.31 0.34** 3.63 1.16 -0.35 3.16 -1.34 -0.70 -0.16 1.47** 1.66 0.09
Differential changes by percentage non-White
1998, low %
non-White
0.34 0.32 0.37 1.41 0.29 0.19 0.42 0.10 4.14 1.59 1.27 4.00 3.03 1.73 0.51 0.51 7.04 1.14
1998, high
% non-
White
0.63 0.64 0.84 2.86 1.35 0.29 0.57 0.23 3.27 1.45 1.07 4.11 2.76 1.51 0.70 0.59 5.25 0.55
Difference
in 1998
0.29** 0.33*** 0.47*** 1.46** 1.06*** 0.10* 0.15 0.12*** -0.87 -0.13 -0.20 0.11 -0.27 -0.21 0.19 0.07 -1.79 -0.59***
2010, low %
non-white
3.96 1.42 1.50 4.38 0.40 0.81 1.32 0.41 9.37 3.11 1.77 7.59 6.43 2.50 0.85 1.96 13.20 1.68
2010, high
% non-
White
5.56 2.86 2.99 9.32 2.61 1.43 1.75 0.94 14.62 4.47 1.64 9.63 6.24 2.61 1.23 3.17 14.51 1.03
Difference
in 2010
1.61 1.44*** 1.49*** 4.95** 2.21*** 0.62*** 0.43* 0.53*** 5.24 1.36* -0.13 2.04 -0.19 0.11 0.38** 1.21** 1.31 -0.65***
Difference in
difference
(2010
- 1998)
1.31 1.11*** 1.02* 3.49* 1.15** 0.52** 0.28 0.41*** 6.11* 1.49* 0.07 1.94 0.08 0.32 0.19 1.14* 3.10 -0.06
Note. Table presents marginal effects from models that include an indicator for cohort, an indicator for school demographic characteristic, and the interaction of the two. All models also include controls for full-day status, class size,
school enrollment, whether a school offers preK, region of the country, urbanicity, and teachers’ gender, race, certification, and experience level. Sample includes all public school kindergarten teachers, and sample sizes are between
3,500 and 3,800, rounded to the nearest 50 as per National Center for Education Statistics requirements. Standard errors are clustered at the school level. K = kindergarten; FRPL = free or reduced-price lunch.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
24
APPENDIX C2a
Frequency of Subject Instruction in Kindergarten, Marginal Effects From Logit Models
Proportion of kindergarten teachers reporting that they taught each subject daily
Variable
Reading/
language
arts Math
Social
studies Science Music Art
Dance/
creative
movement Theater
Foreign
language
Differential changes by percentage eligible for FRPL
1998, low % FRPL 37.36 6.80 0.33 0.19 0.49 0.34 0.16 0.05 0.05
1998, high % FRPL 52.52 10.85 0.29 0.21 0.46 0.36 0.12 0.04 0.07
Difference in 1998 15.16 4.05 -0.04 0.02 -0.03 0.02 -0.03 -0.01 0.02
2010, low % FRPL 70.14 11.48 0.26 0.18 0.19 0.12 0.16 0.02 0.02
2010, high % FRPL 33.31 13.80 0.35 0.29 0.11 0.06 0.09 0.01 0.02
Difference in 2010 -36.84* 2.32 0.09 0.10 -0.08** -0.06** -0.07** -0.01 0.00
Difference in difference
(2010 - 1998)
-52.00 -1.73 0.13 0.09 -0.05 -0.08 -0.04 0.00 -0.02
Differential changes by percentage non-White
1998, low % non-White 39.28 6.95 0.34 0.21 0.48 0.37 0.14 0.05 0.04
1998, high % non-
White
37.95 7.35 0.27 0.14 0.58 0.33 0.13 0.04 0.12
Difference in 1998 -1.33 0.40 -0.08 -0.07* 0.10 -0.04 -0.01 -0.01 0.08*
2010, low % non-White 47.71 10.82 0.26 0.18 0.17 0.10 0.15 0.02 0.02
2010, high % non-
White
66.51 19.90 0.36 0.29 0.15 0.09 0.10 0.01 0.05
Difference in 2010 18.80 9.08* 0.10 0.11 -0.02 -0.01 -0.05* -0.01* 0.03*
Difference in difference
(2010 - 1998)
20.13 8.68 0.18* 0.18** -0.12 0.03 -0.05 0.00 -0.05
Note. Table presents marginal effects from models that include an indicator for cohort, an indicator for school demographic characteristic, and the interaction
of the two. All models also include controls for full-day status, class size, school enrollment, whether a school offers preK, region of the country, urbanicity,
and teachers’ gender, race, certification, and experience level. Sample includes all public school kindergarten teachers, and sample sizes are between 3,500
and 3,800, rounded to the nearest 50 as per National Center for Education Statistics requirements. Standard errors are clustered at the school level. FRPL =
free or reduced-price lunch.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
APPENDIX C2b
Frequency of Subject Instruction in First Grade, Marginal Effects From Logit Models
Proportion of first-grade teachers reporting that they taught each subject daily
Variable
Reading/
language
arts Math
Social
studies Science Music Art
Dance/
creative
movement Theater
Foreign
language
Differential changes by percentage eligible for FRPL
1998, low % FRPL 47.81 20.69 0.15 0.15 0.07 0.03 0.03 0.01
1998, high % FRPL 42.75 18.73 0.20 0.15 0.09 0.04 0.03 0.04
Difference in 1998 -5.06 -1.96 0.04 0.00 0.03 0.01 -0.01 0.03
2010, low % FRPL 28.64 19.36 0.18 0.17 0.04 0.02 0.03 0.02
2010, high % FRPL 9.81 7.84 0.19 0.20 0.02 0.01 0.03 0.02
Difference in 2010 -18.82*** -11.52*** 0.00 0.03 -0.01 -0.01 0.00 0.00
Difference in difference
(2010 - 1998)
-13.76 -9.56 -0.04 0.03 -0.04 -0.02 0.00 -0.03
(continued)
25
Proportion of first-grade teachers reporting that they taught each subject daily
Variable
Reading/
language
arts Math
Social
studies Science Music Art
Dance/
creative
movement Theater
Foreign
language
Differential changes by percentage non-White
1998, low % non-White 44.41 20.35 0.17 0.16 0.06 0.03 0.03 0.01
1998, high % non-
White
90.89 16.91 0.18 0.13 0.08 0.04 0.03 0.06
Difference in 1998 46.48 -3.44 0.01 -0.03 0.02 0.01 0.00 0.05**
2010, low % non-White 25.65 17.69 0.19 0.18 0.03 0.02 0.03 0.02
2010, high % non-
White
11.62 8.36 0.20 0.21 0.02 0.02 0.03 0.03
Difference in 2010 -14.03*** -9.33*** 0.01 0.03 -0.01 0.00 0.00 0.02
Difference in difference
(2010 - 1998)
-60.52 -5.90 0.01 0.05 -0.03 -0.01 0.00 -0.03
Note. Table presents marginal effects from models that include an indicator for cohort, an indicator for school demographic characteristic, and the interaction
of the two. All models also include controls for full-day status, class size, school enrollment, whether a school offers preK, region of the country, urbanic-
ity, and teachers’ gender, race, certification, and experience level. Sample includes all public school first-grade teachers, and sample sizes are between
3,500 and 3,800, rounded to the nearest 50 as per National Center for Education Statistics requirements. Standard errors are clustered at the school level.
FRPL = free or reduced-price lunch.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
APPENDIX C2b (CONTINUED)
APPENDIX C3a
Kindergarten Classroom Organization and Materials, Marginal Effects From Logit Models
Does your classroom have the following interest areas or centers for activities?
Variable
Reading
area
with
books
Listening
center
Writing
center
Math
area
Puzzle or
block area
Water
or sand
table
Computer
area
Science
or nature
area
Dramatic
play area Art area
Differential changes by percentage eligible for FRPL
1998, low %
FRPL
6.15 10.83 37.15 243.92 1.08 9.48 1.76 9.47 12.91
1998, high %
FRPL
8.41 15.14 44.89 107.79 0.77 11.18 1.88 5.39 9.62
Difference in
1998
2.26 4.31 7.74 -136.13 -0.32 1.70 0.12 -4.08* -3.29
2010, low %
FRPL
4.62 11.88 23.36 24.26 0.38 5.99 0.81 1.84 3.33
2010, high %
FRPL
2.90 8.06 15.37 8.84 0.14 8.25 0.53 0.74 1.21
Difference in
2010
-1.72* -3.82 -7.99 -15.42** -0.24*** 2.25 -0.28** -1.10*** -2.12***
Difference in
difference
(2010 - 1998)
-3.99 -8.14 -15.73 120.71 0.08 0.55 -0.40 2.98 1.17
(continued)
26
APPENDIX C3b
First-Grade Classroom Materials, Marginal Effects From Logit Models
I use the following materials in my class daily.
Variable
Art
materials
Musical
instruments Costumes
Cooking/food-
related items
Science
equipment
Differential changes by percentage eligible for FRPL
1998, low % FRPL 0.26 0.01 0.00 0.09
1998, high % FRPL 0.24 0.01 0.00 0.03
Difference in 1998 -0.02 0.00 0.00 -0.06***
2010, low % FRPL 0.23 0.00 0.01 0.03
2010, high % FRPL 0.12 0.00 0.00 0.04
Difference in 2010 -0.11*** 0.00 -0.01 0.01
Difference in difference (2010 - 1998) -0.09 0.00 -0.01 0.07***
Differential changes by percentage non-White
1998, low % non-White 0.26 0.01 0.01 0.08
1998, high % non-White 0.16 0.00 0.00 0.05
Difference in 1998 -0.10* 0.00 0.00 -0.02
2010, low % non-White 0.24 0.00 0.01 0.03
2010, high % non-White 0.10 0.00 0.00 0.04
Difference in 2010 -0.14*** 0.00 -0.01 0.01
Difference in difference (2010 - 1998) -0.04 0.00 -0.01 0.03
Note. Table presents marginal effects from models that include an indicator for cohort, an indicator for school demographic characteristic, and the interaction of the two.
All models also include controls for full-day status, class size, school enrollment, whether a school offers preK, region of the country, urbanicity, and teachers’ gender,
race, certification, and experience level. Sample includes all public school kindergarten teachers, and sample sizes are between 3,500 and 3,800, rounded to the nearest
50 as per National Center for Education Statistics requirements. Standard errors are clustered at the school level. FRPL = free or reduced-price lunch.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
Does your classroom have the following interest areas or centers for activities?
Variable
Reading
area
with
books
Listening
center
Writing
center
Math
area
Puzzle or
block area
Water
or sand
table
Computer
area
Science
or nature
area
Dramatic
play area Art area
Differential changes by percentage non-White
1998, low %
non-White
7.55 10.70 34.71 358.74 1.11 9.03 2.07 8.33 16.28
1998, high %
non-White
5.36 11.73 36.17 80.04 0.64 6.14 1.02 5.11 6.43
Difference in
1998
-2.19 1.02 1.46 -278.70 -0.47** -2.90 -1.06*** -3.21* -9.85***
2010, low %
non-White
4.28 11.49 25.08 26.06 0.38 6.46 0.78 1.90 3.23
2010, high %
non-White
3.10 7.00 12.60 7.16 0.10 6.30 0.57 0.57 1.14
Difference in
2010
-1.18 -4.49* -12.48** -18.89*** -0.28*** -0.17 -0.21 -1.33*** -2.09***
Difference in
difference
(2010 - 1998)
1.01 -5.52 -13.94 259.81 0.19 2.73 0.85** 1.88 7.76**
Note. Table presents marginal effects from models that include an indicator for cohort, an indicator for school demographic characteristic, and the interaction of the
two. All models also include controls for full-day status, class size, school enrollment, whether a school offers preK, region of the country, urbanicity, and teachers’
gender, race, certification, and experience level. Sample includes all public school kindergarten teachers, and sample sizes are between 3,500 and 3,800, rounded
to the nearest 50 as per National Center for Education Statistics requirements. Standard errors are clustered at the school level. FRPL = free or reduced-price lunch.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
APPENDIX C3a (CONTINUED)
27
APPENDIX C4
Kindergarten Teachers’ Reported Approaches to Instruction, Marginal Effects From Logit Models
Instructional approach Do students do the following daily? PE/recess
Variable
>1 hour/
day on
child-
selected
activities
3 hours/
day on
whole-
class
activities
Use a
reading
workbook
or
worksheet
Read
from
basal
reading
texts
Do math
worksheets
Do math
problems
from
textbooks
Children
usually
have PE
daily
Children
usually
have
recess
daily
Differential changes by percentage eligible for FRPL
1998, low % FRPL 1.20 0.10 0.35 0.08 0.18 0.05 0.25 3.38
1998, high % FRPL 1.23 0.17 0.37 0.14 0.24 0.09 0.24 4.80
Difference in 1998 0.03 0.08* 0.02 0.06 0.06 0.04 -0.01 1.42
2010, low % FRPL 0.57 0.36 0.72 0.27 0.47 0.16 0.23 7.00
2010, high % FRPL 0.49 0.61 0.96 0.49 0.77 0.33 0.18 5.93
Difference in 2010 -0.08 0.24** 0.24 0.22*** 0.30** 0.17** -0.05 -1.07
Difference in difference
(2010 - 1998)
-0.11 0.16 0.22 0.15* 0.24 0.13* -0.04 -2.49
Differential changes by percentage non-White
1998, low % non-White 1.34 0.12 0.34 0.08 0.18 0.06 0.21 3.78
1998, high % non-White 1.03 0.13 0.39 0.15 0.29 0.07 0.30 3.48
Difference in 1998 -0.31 0.01 0.05 0.06* 0.11 0.01 0.08 -0.30
2010, low % non-White 0.59 0.37 0.77 0.27 0.47 0.15 0.22 6.50
2010, high % non-White 0.49 0.63 0.94 0.45 0.82 0.42 0.27 5.76
Difference in 2010 -0.10 0.27*** 0.16 0.18** 0.34** 0.27*** 0.05 -0.73
Difference in difference
(2010 - 1998)
0.21 0.26** 0.11 0.12 0.23 0.25*** -0.03 -0.43
Note. Table presents marginal effects from models that include an indicator for cohort, an indicator for school demographic characteristic, and the interaction
of the two. All models also include controls for full-day status, class size, school enrollment, whether a school offers preK, region of the country, urbanicity,
and teachers’ gender, race, certification, and experience level. Sample includes all public school kindergarten teachers, and sample sizes are between 3,500
and 3,800, rounded to the nearest 50 as per National Center for Education Statistics requirements. Standard errors are clustered at the school level. PE =
physical education; FRPL = free or reduced-price lunch.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
APPENDIX C5a
Kindergarten Teachers’ Assessment Philosophies, Marginal Effects From Logit Models
Variable
The following is “very important” or “essential” for evaluating students in kindergarten
Achievement
relative to
class
Achievement
relative to
state/local
standards
Improvement
or progress
over past
performance Effort
Classroom
behavior
or conduct
Cooperation
with other
children
Ability
to follow
directions
Differential changes by percentage eligible for FRPL
1998, low % FRPL 0.78 1.11 41.87 64.15 35.14 20.93 96.35
1998, high % FRPL 1.11 1.66 42.69 30.33 20.84 11.16 61.12
Difference in 1998 0.34* 0.54* 0.82 -33.82 -14.30 -9.77* -35.23
2010, low % FRPL 1.86 3.53 82.33 44.30 32.68 17.19 76.37
2010, high % FRPL 2.41 5.00 101.26 43.90 25.50 11.61 73.50
Difference in 2010 0.55* 1.48* 18.93 -0.41 -7.18 -5.58* -2.87
Difference in difference
(2010 - 1998)
0.22 0.93 18.11 33.42 7.11 4.20 32.36
(continued)
28
APPENDIX C5b
First-Grade Teachers’ Assessment Philosophies, Marginal Effects From Logit Models
Variable
The following is “very important” or “essential” for evaluating students in 1st grade
Achievement
relative to
class
Achievement
relative to
state/local
standards
Improvement
or progress
over past
performance Effort
Classroom
behavior
or conduct
Cooperation
with other
children
Ability
to follow
directions
Differential changes by percentage eligible for FRPL
1998, low % FRPL 1.10 1.28 45.48 94.17 20.40 13.20 72.60
1998, high % FRPL 1.20 1.84 43.17 27.86 13.58 10.12 29.14
Difference in 1998 0.10 0.56* -2.31 -66.31* -6.83 -3.08 -43.46
2010, low % FRPL 1.35 3.83 65.02 50.77 69.48 11.56 57.65
2010, high % FRPL 1.99 4.05 57.12 33.43 32.85 7.44 29.27
Difference in 2010 0.64** 0.23 -7.90 -17.33 -36.63* -4.12** -28.38*
Difference in difference
(2010 - 1998)
0.53 -0.33 -5.59 48.97 -29.80 -1.04 15.09
Differential changes by percentage non-White
1998, low % non-White 0.99 1.28 50.26 65.64 17.16 11.62 51.82
1998, high % non-White 1.59 1.69 46.18 120.82 36.27 18.01 72.06
Difference in 1998 0.60* 0.41 -4.07 55.18 19.11 6.39 20.23
2010, low % non-White 1.35 3.82 68.60 47.83 75.22 11.22 50.75
2010, high % non-White 1.97 4.44 53.95 37.30 27.81 7.92 35.64
Difference in 2010 0.62** 0.62 -14.65 -10.53 -47.41** -3.29* -15.11
Difference in difference
(2010 - 1998)
0.02 0.21 -10.57 -65.72 -66.52** -9.69 -35.34
Note. Table presents marginal effects from models that include an indicator for cohort, an indicator for school demographic characteristic, and the interaction of the
two. All models also include controls for full-day status, class size, school enrollment, whether a school offers preK, region of the country, urbanicity, and teachers’
gender, race, certification, and experience level. Sample includes all public school kindergarten teachers, and sample sizes are between 3,500 and 3,800, rounded
to the nearest 50 as per National Center for Education Statistics requirements. Standard errors are clustered at the school level. FRPL = free or reduced-price lunch.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
Variable
The following is “very important” or “essential” for evaluating students in kindergarten
Achievement
relative to
class
Achievement
relative to
state/local
standards
Improvement
or progress
over past
performance Effort
Classroom
behavior
or conduct
Cooperation
with other
children
Ability
to follow
directions
Differential changes by percentage non-White
1998, low % non-White 0.77 1.26 43.20 45.50 31.83 20.05 129.59
1998, high % non-White 1.23 1.42 36.41 51.29 21.73 15.71 46.86
Difference in 1998 0.45** 0.15 -6.78 5.79 -10.10 -4.34 -82.73*
2010, low % non-White 1.83 3.58 90.89 42.20 32.31 16.40 82.95
2010, high % non-White 2.65 4.35 84.02 45.59 23.12 12.11 66.95
Difference in 2010 0.82* 0.77 -6.88 3.40 -9.19 -4.28 -16.00
Difference in difference
(2010 - 1998)
0.37 0.62 -0.09 -2.40 0.91 0.06 66.73
Note. Table presents marginal effects from models that include an indicator for cohort, an indicator for school demographic characteristic, and the interaction of the
two. All models also include controls for full-day status, class size, school enrollment, whether a school offers preK, region of the country, urbanicity, and teachers’
gender, race, certification, and experience level. Sample includes all public school kindergarten teachers, and sample sizes are between 3,500 and 3,800, rounded
to the nearest 50 as per National Center for Education Statistics requirements. Standard errors are clustered at the school level. FRPL = free or reduced-price lunch.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
APPENDIX C5a (CONTINUED)
Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?
29
Acknowledgments
The authors thank Mimi Engel, William Gormley, Jason Grissom,
Susanna Loeb, and Sara Rimm-Kaufman for helpful feedback.
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support
for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This
research was supported by a 2011 grant from the American
Educational Research Association, which receives funds for its
AERA Grants Program from the National Science Foundation
under Grant No. DRL-0941014. Scott Latham was also supported
by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of
Education, through Grant No. R305B090002 to the University of
Virginia. Opinions reflect those of the authors and do not necessar-
ily reflect those of the granting agencies.
Notes
1. Note that the ECLS-K:1998 tracks a cohort of children
that entered kindergarten in the fall of 1998. In contrast, the
ECLS-K:2011 tracks a cohort that entered kindergarten in the fall
of 2010 (not 2011).
2. In addition to a nationally representative sample of kindergar-
teners, the ECLS-K:1998 also collected data on a nationally represen-
tative sample of kindergarten teachers (which included some teachers
who did not teach any of the sampled students). The ECLS-K:2011
did not sample teachers in this way. For comparability, we therefore
omit from our sample teachers in 1998 who did not teach one of the
sampled students. Thus, our sample is most accurately described as
“the teachers of a nationally representative sample of kindergarten
students.” However, including these omitted teachers in our analysis
does not yield substantive differences in our findings.
3. Note that the design of the ECLS-K allows us to include only
the first-grade teachers of children from our base sample who pro-
ceeded to first grade in the year after kindergarten. The first-grade
teachers of children retained in kindergarten after the base year are
not included, such that our results may differ from a nationally rep-
resentative sample of teachers of first graders.
4. Ideally we could make comparisons across waves in minutes
spent per day or week on each of the subject areas. Unfortunately, dif-
ferences in item wording across waves preclude this type of analysis.
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Authors
DAPHNA BASSOK is an Assistant Professor of Education and
Public Policy at the Curry School of Education, University of
Virginia. Her research addresses early childhood education policy,
with a particular focus on the impacts of policy interventions on the
well-being of low-income children.
SCOTT LATHAM is a doctoral student at the Curry School of
Education, University of Virginia. His research focuses on issues
of access and quality in early childhood education.
ANNA ROREM is a policy associate at the Weldon Cooper Center
for Public Service at the University of Virginia.
... In an attempt to explain the significance of play in education, Froebel designed a series of educational toys called 'Froebel's gifts', which he believed to help with children's cognitive development (Froebel 1887). Later, Maria Montessori added to the development of Froebel's idea when she promoted play in her approach to early childhood education where she introduced a hands-off approach to play, viewing the practitioner as an unobtrusive observer (Bassok, Latham & Rorem 2016). The above ideas imply that young children can learn best when they are engaged in uninterrupted play. ...
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Chapter
The effect of play on children has become the subject of intense debates in America. Many preschools and elementary schools have reduced or even eliminated play from their schedules. Play is being replaced by lessons focused on cognitive development, particularly literacy and reading, to match the content of standardized testing. The focus on cognition and literacy also found its way into policies and proposals for Head Start. The Bush administration initially wanted to change Head Start from a comprehensive intervention to a literacy program. However, changing the law governing Head Start would have required considerable time. To move the program in the desired direction more quickly, the administration imposed new protocols on how the program should be run (decisions that are within its power). This chapter looks at the lessons learned fromHead Start's 40 years of existence, the whole child approach to education, and the theory and practice of children's play and development.