School Psychology Review

Academic and Cognitive Functioning in First Grade: Associations With Earlier Home and Child Care Predictors and With Concurrent Home and Classroom Experiences

Jason T. Downer, Robert C. Pianta

pp. 11-30

General Issue

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Abstract. Family and child care experiences from birth to 54 months, achievement and social competence at entry to school, maternal sensitivity at first grade, and qualities of first-grade classrooms were used to predict academic and cognitive functioning at first grade for 832 children enrolled in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care.Repeated assessments of functioning from preschool to first grade indicated that individual differences in academic and cognitive functioning over the course of two years were relatively stable. In regression models that predicted relative change in cognitive ability from 54 months to first grade, child gender and race,family income-to-needs ratio, maternal education and sensitivity, and home learning environment were significant predictors. Preschool academic cognitive functioning served as a significant mediator between child characteristics, early family factors, child care quality, and first-grade child outcomes. Children’s social competence prior to school entry served a secondary yet significant mediating role between early experience and elementary school academic functioning. Upon controlling for early home and child care factors, classrooms that spent more time on literacy, language, and math instruction were associated with higher scores on tests of reading achievement, phoneme knowledge, and long-term retrieval.