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

Abstract

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.

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Funding

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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Reem M. Ghandour.

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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.

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

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Ghandour, R.M., Moore, K.A., Murphy, K. et al. School Readiness among U.S. Children: Development of a Pilot Measure. Child Ind Res 12, 1389–1411 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-018-9586-8

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Keywords

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