Do kindergarten language, literacy, and executive function mediate SES and race differentials in persistent math and science achievement?

Do kindergarten language, literacy, and executive function mediate SES and race differentials in persistent math and science achievement?

First Author: George Farkas -- School of Education, University of California, Irvine
Additional authors/chairs: 
Yoonkyung Oh; Paul Morgan; Marianne Hillemeier
Keywords: Literacy, Vocabulary, Mathematics, science, SES
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: To test the role of kindergarten oral vocabulary and literacy as well as executive function as mediators between (a) SES and race/ethnicity and (b) persistent patterns of math and science achievement in grades 1-4.

Method: We fit a random intercept, cross-lagged SEM panel model to data from the ECLS-K: 2011.

Results: The largest mediation effects were for the effects of SES on both outcomes. The largest mediation effects were for the effects of SES on both outcomes. The total effect of SES on persistent math was .36SD, 69% of which was mediated, largely by literacy and working memory. The total effect of SES on persistent science was .40SD, 60% of which was mediated, largely by literacy and working memory, with a smaller additional amount mediated by vocabulary. For Hispanics, a total effect of -.15SD on persistent math, 60% of which was mediated most strongly by working memory, but with significant additions from vocabulary and literacy. The total Hispanic effect on persistent science was -.20SD, 65% of which was mediated, largely by vocabulary, but with significant additions from literacy and working memory.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that, aside from direct interventions on kindergarten math and/or science, interventions to improve kindergarten literacy and working memory are most likely to reduce SES achievement gaps in math. For Hispanics, aside from direct kindergarten interventions on math and/or science, kindergarten interventions in oral language are most likely to improve later persistent math and science achievement.