In Reversal, Kindergarten Readiness Gaps Narrow

Overview: Recent Trends in Income, Racial, and Ethnic School Readiness Gaps at Kindergarten Entry

Published in:
August 26, 2016

Sean F. Reardon, Stanford University
Ximena A. Portilla, MDRC


Academic achievement gaps between high- and low-income students born in the 1990s were much larger than among cohorts born two decades earlier. During the same period, racial/ethnic achievement gaps declined. To determine whether these trends have continued in more recent cohorts, we examine trends in several dimensions of school readiness, including academic achievement, self-control, externalizing behavior, and a measure of students’ “approaches to learning,” for cohorts born from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s. We use data from nationally-representative samples of kindergarteners (ages 5-6) in 1998 (n=20,220), 2006 (n=6,600), and 2010 (n=16,980) to estimate trends in racial/ethnic and income school readiness gaps. We find that readiness gaps narrowed modestly from 1998-2010, particularly between high- and low-income students and between white and Hispanic students.

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