Achievement in the first 2 years of school: patterns and processes.Monogr Soc Res Child Dev. 1988; 53(2):1-157.MS
How successfully children adapt to the routine of schooling in the first grade or two likely has long-term implications for their cognitive and affective development. This study aims to understand how home and school factors either facilitate or impede this process of adaptation by examining longitudinal data on cognitive performance for a large and diverse sample of youngsters over grades 1 and 2 in Baltimore City Public Schools. Report-card marks in reading and mathematics and scores on verbal and quantitative subtests of the California Achievement Test (CAT) battery over the 2-year period are the achievement criteria. The analysis directs attention to some of the social-structural (socioeconomic background, gender, and minority/majority status) and social-psychological (significant others and self-reactions) factors that shape youngsters' development during this period, as measured by changes in their cognitive standing. Racial comparisons (black youngsters vs. white) and comparisons by school year (first vs. second) highlight some key differences in the transition to full-time schooling. We find more numerous social-structural and social-psychological influences on CAT gains over the first year than over the second, and fall to spring stability in testing levels is more pronounced in the second year than in the first. This pattern identifies the first year of schooling as a period of considerable consequence for shaping subsequent achievement trajectories, and, for this reason, it may be especially important as a key to understanding black-white achievement differences. Minority and majority youngsters in this sample began school with similar CAT averages, but, by the end of the first year, blacks' performances lagged noticeably behind those of whites, and the cleavage widened over the second year. Blacks also received lower report-card marks than whites. This, along with smaller CAT gains, reveals that the transition to school is more problematic for blacks than it is for whites. We also observed stronger persistence of blacks' marks from one period to the next, indicating that recovering from these initial difficulties is more challenging. Social-psychological aspects of these early achievement patterns also differ by race in important ways: blacks' achievements are less influenced by parent variables than are those of whites, and black youngsters' self-expectations are less affected by the expectations held for them by their parents than are those of whites. These results and others are discussed in terms of their implications for students' development and for what they reveal about social structure in relation to the early schooling process.