School-entry skills predicting school-age academic and social–emotional trajectories

Margaret Burchinal, Tiffany Jamie Foster, Kylie Garber Bezdek, Mary Bratsch-Hines, Clancy Blair, Lynne Vernon-Feagans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Identifying skills at entry to school that promote academic success has been a major goal for policy and research. The current study categorized school-entry skills as academic (i.e., math and reading skills), cognitive (i.e., language and executive functioning), and social–emotional (i.e., externalizing and internalizing problems) skills and asked to what extent each predicted school-age skills. Data were drawn from the Family Life Project, a representative birth cohort study of 1292 children living in low-wealth rural communities. Children's academic, cognitive, and social–emotional skills were assessed prior to kindergarten and used to predict longitudinal trajectories in math, reading, language, and social–emotional skills from kindergarten through third grade. Findings indicate that school-entry skills within a given domain were the strongest predictor of the level of school-age skills within that domain, but the magnitude of those associations diminished over time. Higher levels of language and executive function, and lower levels of internalizing problems were the only school-entry skills to predict larger gains in skills during the first four years of elementary school. These results suggest that greater focus on both cognitive and social–emotional skills during early childhood may be warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-80
Number of pages14
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Academic and social–emotional trajectories
  • Elementary school outcomes
  • Longitudinal
  • Pre-kindergarten predictors
  • School-entry skills

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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