Studies show that educational achievement gaps already exist at Kindergarten entry.  Children from low-income families are more likely to start school with limited language skills, health problems and social and emotional problems that interfere with learning.  The larger the gap at school entry, the harder it is to close.

Schools can improve the readiness of young children by making connections with local child care providers and preschools by creating policies that ensure smooth transitions to kindergarten.  Schools must be ready to address the diverse needs of the children and families in their community and be committed to the success of every child. 


Residency Roundtable:
Indicators of Cognition and Approaches to Learning

This meeting was the third in a series of small work sessions to help states make accelerated progress in selecting and/or developing school readiness indicators in priority areas. Participants included state agency data and policy staff from state departments including Education, Health, Human Services and Governor's Offices as well as state school readiness team members from child policy organizations, universities, and Head Start. The Roundtable focused on indicators related to children's cognitive development and approaches to learning from birth to age eight. The Roundtable also focused on achievement gaps according to race, income, and ethnicity. Indicators reflected state investments in programs and policies for young children and families as well as child outcomes.


Meeting Objectives:

  • Identify issues that are critical to young children's cognitive development and approaches to learning, including family environment, community conditions, child characteristics, and service systems for young children and their families.   
  • Consider a set of school readiness indicators that reflect child outcomes (cognitive development of infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers and early elementary school children; young children's approaches to learning) as well as systems outcomes (disparities in achievement according to race and income, state policies and programs that affect young children and families).   
  • Select priority indicators to track progress in supporting the cognitive development of young children from birth to age 8. 
  • Identify potential data sources for indicators of the cognitive development of young children and their approaches to learning.   



  • Cognition and General Knowledge: This dimension includes multilateral knowledge in three broad areas of academics: reading, mathematics, and general knowledge.  Cognitive development is stimulated by children's environment and experiences, which create knowledge regarding similarities, differences, and associations. It also includes knowledge about societal conventions, such as the assignment of particular letters to sounds, and knowledge about shapes, spatial relations, and number concepts.  General knowledge is a child's understanding of the world around them.
  • Approaches to Learning: This dimension refers to ways in which kindergartners approach and perform specific tasks in a variety of situations.  Individual differences use of skills, knowledge, and capacities reflect children's future attitudes and approaches toward school and learning. Key components include enthusiasm, curiosity, and persistence on tasks, as well as temperament and cultural patterns and values.
  • Achievement Gap: This term refers to disparities in achievement between economic, racial, and ethnic groups.  Standardized state and national tests demonstrate unequal academic proficiency between groups of students beginning in elementary school and persisting through high school.  These disparities often result in unequal academic and economic opportunities for students according to their race, class, or ethnicity.  



© 2005, School Readiness Indicators Initiative
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The School Readiness Indicators Initiative is supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
The 17-state initiative is managed by Rhode Island KIDS COUNT