In Trouble Before They Even Get Started

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Not being socially and behaviorally ready for kindergarten has future consequences

Illustration by Lindsey Balbierz

Children who enter kindergarten behind in social-behavioral development are more likely to be held back, need more individualized supports and services, and be suspended or expelled, write Deborah Gross, DNSc, RN, FAAN, Grace Ho, PhD, RN, and Amie Bettencourt, PhD,  in “The Costly Consequences of Not Being Socially and Behaviorally Ready by Kindergarten: Associations with Grade Retention, Receipt of Academic Support Services, and Suspensions, Expulsions.”

The study of more than 9,000 young students in Baltimore City Public Schools examined the relationship between kindergartners’ social-behavioral readiness and key educational outcomes, showing that by the time they reached fourth grade, students who were considered socially and behaviorally “not ready” were:

  • Up to 80% more likely to be retained in their grade and to receive services and supports through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan geared toward children with disabilities;
  • Up to seven times as likely to be suspended or expelled at least once.

Boys were also more likely to be assessed as not socially and behaviorally ready in kindergarten and to experience all three academic difficulties.

“These results are important,” says Gross of the study. “They show how critical social and behavioral skills are for learning, how early the struggle begins for young children, and how important it is to address the problem of social behavioral readiness well before children enter kindergarten.”

The study also points to the additional costs associated with providing educational support, lost wages among parents needing to supervise children who have been suspended or expelled, and juvenile justice involvement that often follows school dropout.

The researchers’ comprehensive strategy calls for schools and cities to expand and enhance early childhood programming and strengthen supports for parents and teachers.

Publication: Baltimore Education Research Consortium, February 2016

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