Early Predictors of School Performance Declines at School Transition Points

This longitudinal study followed students (n =265) from kindergarten through seventh grade and examined early social and academic predictors of school performance at two normative school transitions. Questions addressed include: (a) are there changes in students’ school performance over time, especially at school transition points; (b) are changes in school performance dependent on sociodemographic factors; and, (c) does early social and academic competence predict stability or change in school performance following transition? Early social and academic competence was assessed in kindergarten via teacher report and standardized tests. Days absent, discipline infractions, and mathematics and language arts letter grades obtained from school records served as outcome variables.

Findings showed stability for outcomes with the exception of discipline; discipline infractions increased after the first transition. Sociodemographic factors predicted greater performance declines following transition. Early social competence predicted reduced discipline; students rated as more socially competent in kindergarten were less likely to show discipline increases during transition, after controlling for demographic factors. Findings emphasize behavioral and academic stability suggesting that early social competencies forecast fewer increases in discipline infractions at school transition points.

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Published in Research in Middle Level Education Online, 2008