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What's the Best Predictor of School Success?

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What's the Best Predictor of School Success?
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  • The growth of early childhood programs has led to an increased emphasis on the development of academic skills, social skills and behavioral skills. But which factor is the best predictor of later success in school?

    In previous studies, both teachers and researchers have suggested that a number of factors including poor academic skills, difficulties following directions and a lack of social skills are an impediment to school readiness and later success. Because of this, some experts have suggested that early childhood education should focus on building behavioral, social and emotional skills just as much as building academic skills.

    According to a large-scale study published in Developmental Psychology, one of the best predictor's of later school success is early academic and attention skills.

    "These two views have emerged in the current debate about what constitutes school readiness and in particular about what skills predict school achievement. Many early education programs, including Head Start, are designed to enhance children's physical, intellectual, and social competencies on the grounds that each domain contributes to a child's overall developmental competence and readiness for school. However, if early acquisition of specific academic skills or learning-enhancing behaviors forecasts later achievement, it may be beneficial to add domain-specific early skills to the definition of school readiness and to encourage interventions aimed at promoting these skills prior to elementary school. Thus, understanding which skills are linked to children's academic achievement has important implications for early education programs."
    In this study led by economist Greg J. Duncan, PhD, of Northwestern University, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of the results of six large-scale longitudinal studies. The findings suggest that an early understanding math concepts is the most powerful predictor of later school success. Other predictors of later success included language, reading and attention skills. Surprisingly, social and behavioral problems had virtually no impact on later school success.

    One important factor to note is that the sample used in this study was drawn from a general population, so these results don't necessarily apply to children who are diagnosed with behavioral or social problems. The researchers also point out that problematic behaviors in the classroom, such as being disruptive, may actually hurt the achievement of other children more than the individual student.

    The authors also note that:
    "...academic skills are only one facet of educational success, and improvements in problem behavior or social skills may better predict other important school outcomes, such as a child's engagement in school and motivation for learning, relationships with peers and teachers, and overall self-concept and school adjustment."
    Reference:
    Duncan, G.J, et. Al. (2007). School Readiness and Later Achievement. Developmental Psychology, Vol. 43, No. 6. Full Text in PDF Format

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