Early executive function (EF) skills reliably predict school readiness and future academic success. While children’s skills undergo rapid development during the transition to formal schooling, it remains unclear the extent to which schooling exerts a unique influence on the accelerated development of EF and academic skills during the early years of schooling. In the present study, a quasi-experimental technique known as the school cutoff design was used to examine whether same-aged children who made vs. missed the age cutoff for school entry significantly differed on EF, reading, and math outcomes. Data from 166 pre-k, kindergarten, and first grade children (Range = 3.75–7.58 years, 92 girls) from a longitudinal study of literacy development were analyzed. Children were assessed on EF, reading, and math skills in fall and spring. Results revealed unique effects of kindergarten, but not first grade, on growth in EF and reading over and above the effect of age. Schooling was unrelated to growth in math. Because kindergarten represents the first year of elementary school and children’s first exposure to a formal schooling environment, kindergarten schooling may be uniquely positioned to produce greater gains in academic and behavioral outcomes compared to other grades.
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This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD27176-R21) to FM.
The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation, to any qualified researcher.
Kim, Matthew H.; Ahmed, Sammy F.; and Morrison, Frederick J., "The Effects of Kindergarten and First Grade Schooling on Executive Function and Academic Skill Development: Evidence from a School Cutoff Design" (2021). Psychology Faculty Publications. 199.