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.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Frontiers in Psychology, v. 11, article 607973.

© 2021 Kim, Ahmed and Morrison

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Funding Information

This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD27176-R21) to FM.

Related Content

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation, to any qualified researcher.

Included in

Psychology Commons