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Exploring the Predictors of School Readiness: Meta-analysis of Longitudinal Research

Abstract

School failure and related problems are not only adverse events in their own right for the children who experience them, but are related to a broad range of negative adolescent and adult outcomes. Children's achievement trajectories appear to be established very early in schooling, with early successes promoting later achievement and early difficulties becoming entrenched.This circumstance makes it especially important to identify and understand the evelopmentalprecursors of school outcomes that are present in the early childhood period. Knowledge of these factors is useful for diagnostic purposes to identify the children most in need of remedial services, and to guide the design of prevention programs aimed at offsetting the more significant, malleable risk factors likely to influence school outcomes and, conversely, enhancing the more significant protective factors likely to buffer the risks to which vulnerable children are exposed. Moreover, the early age at which the risk factors for school problems become evident creates the potential for programs implemented early in children's schooling to redirect those trajectories toward school success and its beneficial long-term personal and social consequences.

The body of research most relevant to this issue includes a large number of longitudinal studies in which school outcomes are examined in relation to a rich diversity of antecedent risk and protective variables. The Principal Investigator (Wilson) and her co-Investigator (Farran) have
already amassed a large meta-analytic database of longitudinal studies of school outcomes with funding from NICHD, but analyses have not yet focused specifically on school readiness. The research proposed here is a careful, systematic meta-analysis of the findings of the full range of longitudinal studies that provide evidence on: (1) the predictive relationships of facets of schoolreadiness to later school performance and (2) on the predictive relationships between risk and protective factors and school readiness. In the proposed research, then, school readiness represents both predictor and outcome. The project is aimed at sorting out and estimating the strength of those empirical relationships for the different risk and protective constructs, school readiness constructs, and the different facets of school performance. Moreover, it is designed to take account of the many differences in sample characteristics and ways of operationalizing the school readiness and school performance constructs that are found in the longitudinal literature. In brief, we are proposing in this application to (1) update this database with the most recent longitudinal research; (2) fully explore and analyze the specific relationships between these different school readiness constructs and the various facets of later school performance; and (3)identify critical variables measured prior to school readiness that can serve as targets for intervention in preschool classrooms or assist in identifying vulnerable populations or individuals in need of remedial services.