Child Indicators Research

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 1389–1411 | Cite as

School Readiness among U.S. Children: Development of a Pilot Measure

  • Reem M. GhandourEmail author
  • Kristin Anderson Moore
  • Kelly Murphy
  • Christina Bethell
  • Jessica R. Jones
  • Robin Harwood
  • Jessica Buerlein
  • Michael Kogan
  • Michael Lu


No single U.S. data source supports a multidimensional, population-based assessment of young children’s readiness to start school. This changed with the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). This study provides an overview of the process by which content related to multiple domains of school readiness was identified, refined and selected for inclusion in the NSCH; describes the analytic processes and resultant outcomes associated with the development of domain-specific and summary measures of school readiness; and discusses opportunities to refine and validate these pilot measures to provide a national portrait of young children’s progress towards timely mastery of skills and competencies needed to be “Healthy and Ready to Learn.” The NSCH, an annual, address-based, self-administered survey, produces national- and state-level data on the physical and emotional health of children ages 0–17 years. In 2016, 22 items were added to assess school readiness among 3–5 year-olds and pilot summary measures of “Healthy and Ready to Learn” were developed. Four distinct domains were identified: Early Learning Skills, Self-Regulation, Social-Emotional Development, and Physical Health/Motor Development. Over four in ten children were “On Track” across all four domains while another three in ten were on track in three of the four domains. One in ten are reported to be “On Track” in ≤ 1 domain. New NSCH content and related summary measures of “Healthy and Ready to Learn” present a unique opportunity to extend what is known about young children’s school-readiness at both the national and state levels. Continued measure development and validation is required.


School readiness Early childhood development Early childhood education Indicators National Survey of Children’s health 


Authors Contributions

Drs. Ghandour, Moore and Murphy conceptualized and designed the study, drafted the initial manuscript, and reviewed and revised the manuscript. Drs. Bethell, Harwood, Kogan and Lu and Mses. Jones and Buerlein reviewed and revised the manuscript. All authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

Funding Source

Portions of the work described in this manuscript, including item analysis and confirmatory factor analyses, were conducted under contract #GS10F0030R between the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau and Child Trends. Contributions to the manuscript content from the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative were in part conducted under the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Measurement Research Network grant (Number UA6MC30375) to the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the Health Resources and Services Administration, nor does mention of the department or agency names imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

Conflict of Interest

The authors have indicated they have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.


  1. American Psychological Association (2018). Effects of Poverty, Hunger and Homelessness on Children and Youth. Accessed 17 May 2018.
  2. Bell, M. F., Bayliss, D. M., Glauert, R., & Ohan, J. L. (2018). School readiness of maltreated children: Associations of timing, type, and chronicity of maltreatment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 76, 426–439. Scholar
  3. Bethell, C. (2008). Patient centered improvement of well-child care: Developing and evaluating the impact of patient-centered interventions to improve quality and equity of recommended services. .Google Scholar
  4. Bethell, C., Newacheck, P., Hawes, E., & Halfon, N. (2014). Adverse childhood experiences: Assessing the impact on health and school engagement and the mitigating role of resilience. Health Aff (Millwood), 33(12), 2106–2115. Scholar
  5. Blodgett, C., & Lanigan, J. D. (2018). The association between adverse childhood experience (ACE) and school success in elementary school children. School Psychology Quarterly, 33(1), 137–146. Scholar
  6. Brooks-Gunn, J., & Markman, L. B. (2005). The contribution of parenting to ethnic and racial gaps in school readiness. The Future of Children, 15(1), 139–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Byrne, B. M. (2013). Structural equation modeling with Mplus: Basic concepts, applications, and programming. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Child Trends. (2001). School Readiness: Helping Communities Get Children Ready for School and Schools Ready for Children. Accessed 5/31/18.
  9. Child Trends. (2013). 5 things to know about school readiness. Accessed 9/22/17.
  10. Child Trends. (2015). Child Trends Databank: Early school readiness. Accessed 9/22/17.
  11. Cohen, J., McCabe, E. M., Michelli, N. M., & Pickeral, T. (2009). School climate: Research, policy, practice, and teacher education. Teach Coll Rec, 111(1), 180–213.Google Scholar
  12. Commonwealth of Australia. (2012). Australian Early Development Census. Accessed 22 Nov 2017.
  13. Council on Early Childhood, & Council on School Health. (2016). The pediatrician's role in optimizing school readiness. Pediatrics, 138(3).
  14. Cunha, F., & Heckman, G. J. (2007). The economics of human development: The technology of skill formation. The American Economic Review, 97(2), 31–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cunha, F., Heckman, J., & Schennach, S. (2010). Estimating the technology of cognitive and noncognitive skill formation. Econometrica, 78(3), 883–931. Scholar
  16. Eisenberg, N., Valiente, C., & Eggum, N. D. (2010). Self-regulation and school readiness. Early Education and Development, 21(5), 681–698. Scholar
  17. Evans, G. W. (2004). The environment of childhood poverty. The American Psychologist, 59(2), 77–92. Scholar
  18. Fantuzzo, J., Perry, M. A., & McDermott, P. (2004). Preschool approaches to learning and their relationship to other relevant classroom competencies for low-income children. School Psychology Quarterly, 19, 212–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Folger, A. T., Eismann, E. A., Stephenson, N. B., Shapiro, R. A., Macaluso, M., Brownrigg, M. E., et al. (2018). Parental adverse childhood experiences and offspring development at 2 years of age. Pediatrics, 141(4),, e20172826.
  20. Ghandour, R., Jones, J., Lebrun-Harris, L., Minnaert, J., Blumberg, S., Fields, J., et al. (2018). The design and implementation of the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health. Maternal and Child Health Journal.
  21. Hair, E., Halle, T., Terry-Humen, E., Lavelle, B., & Calkins, J. (2006). Children's school readiness in the ECLS-K: Predictions to academic, health, and social outcomes in first grade. Early Child Research Quarterly, 21(4), 431–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Health Resources and Services Administration, & Maternal and Child Health Bureau. (2017). Federally Available Data (FAD) Resource Document. Accessed 24 Nov 17.
  23. Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, U.S. Department of Education, & National Center for Education Statistics. (2014). School readiness survey measures expert meeting. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  24. Heckman, J. J., & Mosso, S. (2014). The economics of human development and social mobility. Annu Rev Econom, 6, 689–733. Scholar
  25. High, P.C. and The Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care and Council on School Health, American Academy of Pediatrics (2008). School Readiness. Pediatrics, 121(4):e1008-e1015.
  26. Holben, D. H., & Marshall, M. B. (2017). Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics: Food insecurity in the United States. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 117(12), 1991–2002. Scholar
  27. Hoyniak, C. P., Bates, J. E., Staples, A. D., Rudasill, K. M., Molfese, D. L., & Molfese, V. J. (2018). Child sleep and socioeconomic context in the development of cognitive abilities in early childhood. Child Development.
  28. Hutton, J. S., Horowitz-Kraus, T., Mendelsohn, A. L., DeWitt, T., Holland, S. K., & Consortium, C. M. A. (2015). Home reading environment and brain activation in preschool children listening to stories. Pediatrics, 136(3), 466–478. Scholar
  29. Issacs J, & Magnuson K. (2011). Income and education as predictors of Children’s school readiness. Washington, DC: Center on Children and Families at Brookings.Google Scholar
  30. Kagan S.L., Moore E., & Bredekamp S. (1995). Reconsidering Children's Early Development and Learning: Toward Common Views and Vocabulary. Washington, DC: national Educational Goals Panel.Google Scholar
  31. Kogan, M. D., Dykton, C., Hirai, A. H., Strickland, B. B., Bethell, C. D., Naqvi, I., et al. (2015). A new performance measurement system for maternal and child health in the United States. Maternal and Child Health Journal.
  32. McClelland, M. M., Tominey, S. L., Schmitt, S. A., & Duncan, R. (2017). SEL iterventions in early childhood. The Future of Children, 27(1).Google Scholar
  33. McCoy, D. C., Roy, A. L., & Sirkman, G. M. (2013). Neighborhood crime and school climate as predictors of elementary school academic quality: A cross-lagged panel analysis. American Journal of Community Psychology, 52(1–2), 128–140. Scholar
  34. Mindell, J. A., & Williamson, A. A. (2017). Benefits of a bedtime routine in young children: Sleep, development, and beyond. Sleep Medicine Reviews.
  35. Moore, K. A., & Ramirez, J. M. (2016). Adverse childhood experience and adolescent well-being: Do protective factors matter? Child Indicators Research, 9, 299–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Moore, K. A., Theokkas, C., Lippman, L., Bloch, M., Vandivere, S., & O’Hare, W. (2008). A microdata child well-being index: Conceptualization, creation, and findings. Child Indicators Research, 1, 17–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Moore KA, Mbwana K, Theokas C, Lippman L, Bloch M, Vandivere S, et al (2011). Child Well-Being: An Index Based on Data of Individual Children. In Child Trends (Ed.). Washington DC.Google Scholar
  38. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998-2012). Mplus User's Guide. Seventh Edition. Los Angeles: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
  39. National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009). Position statement: Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children birth through age 8. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  40. National Center for Education Statistics. (2007). National Household Education Survey on School Readiness. Accessed 22 Nov 2017.
  41. National Center for Education Statistics. (2010-2011). Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. Accessed 22 Nov 2017.
  42. Offord Centre for Child Studies. (2012–2013). Early Development Instrument. Accessed 22 Nov 2017.
  43. Radesky, J. S., Carta, J., & Bair-Merritt, M. (2016). The 30 million-word gap: Relevance for pediatrics. JAMA Pediatrics, 170(9), 825–826. Scholar
  44. Rhode Island KIDS COUNT. (2005). Getting Ready: Findings from the National School Readiness Indicators Initiative -- A 17 State Partnership. Accessed 9/22/17.
  45. Ruiz, L. D., McMahon, S. D., & Jason, L. A. (2018). The role of neighborhood context and school climate in school-level academic achievement. American Journal of Community Psychology, 61, 296–309. Scholar
  46. Shonkoff, J. P., & Phillips, D. A. (2000). From neurons to Neighbohoods: The science of early childhood development. Washington DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  47. Sirin, S. R. (2005). Socioeconomic status and academic achievment: A meta-analytic review of research. Review of Educational Research, 75(3), 417–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Thompson, B. (2004). Exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis: Understanding concepts and applications. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. U.S. Census Bureau, & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017). Frequently Asked Questions: 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health. Accessed 9/22/17.
  50. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, & National Center for Health Statistics. (2015). State and Local Area Integrated Telephone Survey (SLAITS). Accessed 8/16/2017.
  51. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, & Maternal and Child Health Bureau (n.d.) Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant Program. Accessed 5 Nov 2017.
  52. Ursache, A., Blair, C., & Raver, C. C. (2012). The promotion of self-regulation as a means of enhancing school readiness and early achievement in children at risk for school failure. Child Development Perspectives, 6, 122–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Yoshikawa, H., Aber, J. L., & Beardslee, W. R. (2012). The effects of poverty on the mental, emotional, and behavioral health of children and youth: Implications for prevention. The American Psychologist, 67(4), 272–284. Scholar

Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Reem M. Ghandour
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kristin Anderson Moore
    • 2
  • Kelly Murphy
    • 2
  • Christina Bethell
    • 3
  • Jessica R. Jones
    • 1
  • Robin Harwood
    • 1
  • Jessica Buerlein
    • 1
  • Michael Kogan
    • 1
  • Michael Lu
    • 4
  1. 1.U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health BureauRockvilleUSA
  2. 2.Child TrendsBethesdaUSA
  3. 3.Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, Department of Population, Family and Reproductive HealthJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Milken Institute School of Public HealthGeorge Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations