Journal of Educational Psychology

2008, Vol. 100, No. 2, 235–251

Copyright 2008 by the American Psychological Association
0022-0663/08/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/0022-0663.100.2.235

Socioeconomic Differences in Reading Trajectories: The Contribution of
Family, Neighborhood, and School Contexts
Nikki L. Aikens

Oscar Barbarin

Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

In the present study, the authors use the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Cohort of
1998 –1999, to examine the extent to which family, school, and neighborhood factors account for the
impact of socioeconomic status (SES) on children’s early reading. Through the use of hierarchical linear
modeling techniques, growth curve models were estimated to depict children’s reading trajectories from
kindergarten to 3rd grade. Family characteristics made the largest contribution to the prediction of initial
kindergarten reading disparities. This included home literacy environment, parental involvement in
school, and parental role strain. However, school and neighborhood conditions contributed more than
family characteristics to SES differences in learning rates in reading. The association between school
characteristics and reading outcomes suggests that makeup of the student population, as indexed by
poverty concentration and number of children with reading deficits in the school, is related to reading
outcomes. The findings imply that multiple contexts combine and are associated with young children’s
reading achievement and growth and help account for the robust relation of SES to reading outcomes.
Keywords: socioeconomic status, reading, achievement trajectories

interactions encountered by children across settings. Functioning
and development are also a reflection of how settings interact (see,
for example, Early Child Care Research Network, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2004).
Specifically, these frameworks account for influences of social
environment on reading development in terms of (a) the qualities
of environments, such as climate, activities, resources, and strains,
and (b) the quality of social relations within and across these
settings. Through their resources, experiences, and interactions,
families, schools, and neighborhoods create auspicious or risky
environments for children’s reading development.
Social relationships include parent– child, teacher– child, and
peer–peer interactions. The nature and quality of interactions with
important adults are important to children’s academic and social–
emotional development (NICHD, 1998, 2000). Maternal warmth
and mother– child interaction patterns have been cited as important
to children’s language outcomes (Hess, Holloway, Dickson, &
Price, 1984; Murray & Hornbaker, 1997).
Bronfenbrenner’s (1979, 1989) work recognized that systems
differ in their proximity to the child, with more distal settings
emanating outward from the child. The framework also captures
the interrelations of systems. For example, parents’ reports of
involvement with the school represent the interaction of two settings—the family and the school. Here, we focus on those settings
that children have direct contact with, including family, neighborhood, and school characteristics. We recognize that each of these
settings may produce unique and cumulative effects on early
development. Questions remain about the relative contribution of
these contexts to the development of reading and to the relation of
SES to early literacy outcomes. Ecological and developmental
systems frameworks also suggest ways environments may interact
with one another and may thus attenuate or amplify their effects on
development. How, for instance, do family, neighborhood, and
school contexts combine to channel the effects of SES on reading

Socioeconomic status (SES) differences in children’s reading
and educational outcomes are ubiquitous, stubbornly persistent,
and well documented (Arnold & Doctoroff, 2003; Duncan, Yeung,
Brooks-Gunn, & Smith, 1998; Lee & Burkam, 2002; McLoyd,
1998; Yeung, Linver, & Brooks-Gunn, 2002). Economically disadvantaged children acquire language skills more slowly, exhibit
delayed letter recognition and phonological sensitivity, and are at
risk for reading difficulties (Whitehurst & Lonigan, 1998). Speculation about the mechanisms through which economic status
affects reading achievement often concerns family life, and more
recently, contexts like schools and neighborhoods are promising
sources of influence. In the present study, we examine the contribution of these multiple settings to SES differences in early reading. This study is guided by ecological and developmental systems
theories, in which it is recognized that children’s lives unfold
within multiple settings and in relationships with multiple others.
Each of these settings functions in a dynamic, reciprocal process
between the settings and the individual child (Bronfenbrenner,
1979, 1989; Magnusson & Cairns, 1996). Under such perspectives,
functioning and development are not merely reflections of children
themselves but also of the nature of experiences, resources, and

Nikki L. Aikens, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.; Oscar Barbarin,
School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This research was supported by a grant from the American Educational
Research Association (AERA), which receives funds for its AERA Grants
Program from the National Science Foundation and the National Center for
Education Statistics of the Institute of Education Sciences (U.S. Department of Education) under National Science Foundation Grant REC9980573. Opinions stated are those of Nikki L. Aikens and Oscar Barbarin
and are not necessarily those of the granting agencies.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nikki L.
Aikens, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., 600 Maryland Avenue, S. W.,
Suite 550, Washington, DC 20024. E-mail: naikens@mathematica-mpr.com
235

More important. 1991.236 AIKENS AND BARBARIN development? Because of the relation between early reading outcomes and later academic success. poor and distressed schools. 2005. classroom quality. Vernon-Feagans. & Costello. the neighborhood. 1998. 2002). evidence suggests that differences in the quality of parents’ behaviors during joint book reading (Whitehurst & Lonigan. nested settings may capture more accurately and more fully the influences that shape children’s reading and academic growth than do single factor explanations. 2000. 2004. particularly those related to socioeconomic background. These children are less likely to be regularly read to by parents (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. including low quality child care. 2004. 2004. school. and economically depressed neighborhoods. IQ scores. This research assessed the extent to which the effects of SES on young children’s reading development occur through what happens in the school. & Griffin. that provide opportunities for dialogic reading or for children to be involved in the book reading experience. lower SES. 1993. Kessenich. & Sparling. For example. 1991. Although research has highlighted mechanisms by which neighborhoods and communities impact adolescent development. 2000) contribute to disparities in early reading-related outcomes. instructional methods. Given the confluence of negative factors associated with socioeconomic disadvantage. Dickinson. 1995. on such reading-related differences. Rothstein. the present study is designed to answer the following questions: . & Manlove. 1998). Lee & Burkam. 1989. 1979. 2002. Whitehurst & Lonigan. Miccio. & Bradley. 2000). that provide support and opportunities for writing. 2004). few studies have concurrently examined the effects of multiple contexts on children’s learning outcomes (see NICHD. are distributed across environments and are not restricted to a single setting (Evans. 2004. 2002. very few of these studies have explored reading outcomes. 1998. Exploring the contribution of these additional settings is important because interpreting SES effects as emanating exclusively from the family or the child means that policy and program interventions may focus too narrowly as they attempt to improve the educational outcomes of low-SES children. Pianta. Child and school poverty have also been linked to kindergarten teachers’ positive interactions. Burchinal. NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. In addition. for recent exceptions). 2002). maternal sensitivity also has been implicated in the association between SES and children’s early language abilities (Raviv. and the home. Lau. Goldenberg. In addition. Payne. Xue & Meisels. 2002. and community resources emerge along socioeconomic lines (Evans. 1998) and in the frequency and the quality of language interaction with parents in the home (Hart & Risley. Lee & Burkam. Whitehurst & Lonigan. However. Each of these family climate indicators has been cited as a factor underlying disparities in early literacy and language outcomes. Accordingly. 1996). & Bennett. however. 2005. with an emphasis on those that may differ across class lines. classroom’s instructional climate. Lee & Burkam. Kozol. by neglecting the interactions of multiple contexts. A plethora of studies have assessed the relation of preschool programs. that have teachers with high expectations of students and with adequate preparation to teach reading. For example. National Research Council. Compared with more advantaged peers. LaParo. and classroom’s child-centered climate (Pianta et al. and that promote stimulating teacher– child conversations enhance early language and literacy skills. in this work children’s early reading outcomes have not been explicitly examined. Kozol. 2004). With respect to relationship indicators. particularly in regard to teacher and peer quality. especially behavioral problems. Developmental research is replete with studies examining the relation between child outcomes and family climates of low-SES children. and research on very young children is rare. and neighborhoods to the relation between SES and children’s early reading achievement and growth between kindergarten and third grade. 2004). 2004. 2002. Again. one risks missing the dynamic and contextual nature of development and its outcomes (Cairns. What has been done links neighborhood quality. 2004). economically disadvantaged children are more likely to reside in poorer quality neighborhoods (Evans. Pianta & Walsh. The current research assessed. Magnusson & Cairns. there is a strong association among school quality. 1996). Hammer. Factors that put children at risk for learning and school difficulty. 1994. research examining the influence of multiple. These researchers have also not sought to understand the neighborhood characteristics that mediate the relations between socioeconomic background and children’s reading achievement. Differences in classroom quality as early as preschool are connected to early reading-related outcomes (Bryant. and school achievement among young and early school age children (Leventhal & BrooksGunn. with children in schools with larger concentrations of less skilled. Martin. Cox. Burns. highlighting the fact that socioeconomic disadvantage exposes poor children to multiple risky extrafamilial environments. Lee & Burkam. Elder. 1996). including those outside the home. research exploring the contribution of multiple settings to reading outcomes is critical in the effort to deconstruct and identify the processes that give rise to socioeconomic differences in achievement. among a nationally representative sample of children. Snow. 2002. we sought to identify the predictors that account for this association across contexts and to identify how these relations vary over the first 4 years of school. 2004. remarkably few studies have sought to identify the contribution of school characteristics to the relations between SES and children’s reading achievement. 2002). family environment has most often been explored because it is considered to be the principal contributor to differences in early literacy and language development associated with SES. elementary school reading instruction. 2004). Variables were selected to reflect those that have been previously linked in the literature to reading or academic achievement. 2004. Only recently has there been an investigation of the influence of more distal settings. children’s verbal ability. and family SES (Entwisle & Alexander. 2004). this body of work has demonstrated that children in low-SES households have less exposure to books at home (Evans. Leventhal & Brooks- Gunn. Lee & Burkam. and peers to reading competence (see NICHD. Although ecological and developmental system frameworks underscore the need to examine multiple contexts on developmental outcomes (Bronfenbrenner. 2002. In addition. & Morrison. The theory also recognizes that the relative salience of contexts may shift over time. teacher. 1998) and have parents who are less involved in their schooling (Evans.. Whitehurst & Lonigan. and physical and material resources (Evans. and minority peers exhibiting lower gains in reading during the kindergarten year (Xue & Meisels. 2001. Important differences in classroom. Rothstein. 2000). schools. Weigel. This work also suggests that peers play a role in influencing early reading proficiency. the relative contribution of families. This work suggests that classroom environments that are rich in literacy materials.

The direct reading assessment consisted of a set of two-stage assessments: a first-stage routing section. nursery school. Kindergarten Class of 1998 –1999 (ECLS-K. mastery of beginning and ending sounds and rhyming sounds. Lakota. The ECLS-K study followed a nationally representative sample of American children from kindergarten through fifth grade. and provisions were made to interview parents speaking Spanish. This screening test determined whether a child was able to understand and respond to the cognitive assessment items in English. and Chinese. and household income. the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test–Revised (Dunn & Dunn. with permission. parental interviews. and non-Catholic private schools nationwide. Department of Education. Testing on this second-stage battery continued until the child reached a ceiling of three consecutive items missed. Item response theory (IRT) was used to generate standard scores based on an analysis of the item difficulty and the pattern of right and wrong responses. followed by several alternative second-stage forms. Data on whether the child had attended a day care center. Child variables. Child age reflects the child’s age in months at the time of the fall kindergarten assessment. teacher. SES is a composite of five pieces of information: father’s or male guardian’s education. IRT scale scores allow for longitudinal measurement of achievement gain over time because assessments at each time are measured in a common metric and are therefore comparable across waves. in which items varied in difficulty. What is the relation between SES and children’s reading development from the fall of kindergarten to the spring of the third grade school year? 2. a screening test consisting of 20 items with a broad range of difficulty was used to assign each child to one of three extensive batteries in the second stage of the assessment. mother’s or female guardian’s education. 0 ⫽ male). and school experiences over time. and comprehension (listening comprehension. first grade. father’s or male guardian’s occupation. Parents provided information on child characteristics. 2004). parent.S. A subsample of 17.277 kindergarten classrooms in public. experiences. 1986) was administered to those children identified from their school records (or by their teacher. neighborhood. Parents also reported the number of books the child had in the home (including library books). A description of the items used in the current project follows. The ECLS-K provides information on child gender. 1989). The study design involved multistage probability sampling to achieve a nationally representative sample of children eligible to attend kindergarten in the 1998 –1999 school year. Test specifications were based on the 1992 and 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress framework. The total sample consists of 21. letter recognition. Data for the current analyses come from child. and SES. 237 Prior to administering the cognitive assessment. Child individual reading assessment. Hresko. The index conceptualizes SES in quintiles. or prekindergarten program on a regular basis the year before he or she started kindergarten (1 ⫽ yes. and the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement–Revised (Woodcock & Bonner. Hmong. providing a comprehensive picture of children’s early family.401 children was retained in the longitudinal kindergarten to third grade sample. and field staff responses gathered during this time. and third grade. and observations of the school environment and the community surrounding the school. vocabulary (receptive vocabulary). parent well-being. including the Peabody Individual Achievement Test–Revised (Markwardt. Teachers and school administrators completed questionnaires during the spring data collection periods in kindergarten. first-. early elementary school educators and literacy curriculum specialists helped modify the assessment to be suitable for kindergarten and first grade. the framework focuses on skills that are just emerging in early readers. Parent interviews were completed primarily via telephone. Three variables for the current analyses were derived from parents’ responses. 1989).SOCIOECONOMIC DIFFERENCES IN READING TRAJECTORIES 1. 1990). 0 ⫽ no) were used as a measure of whether the child had received center-based care. To what extent do resources. words in context). from published tests. but a dichotomous. and school contexts independently and cumulatively explain socioeconomic differences in early reading outcomes and growth? How do these relations vary over the first 4 years of school? Method The data for the present study are from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. the Test of Early Reading Ability (Reid. Home literacy environment is a sum score of . and home learning environment. neighborhood. Pools of items for the reading assessment were borrowed or adapted. mother’s or female guardian’s occupation. Catholic. consequently. For this reason. the Primary Test of Cognitive Skills ( Huttenlocher & Levine. preschool. Reading assessments involved a multiple choice or an open-ended format to measure basic skills (including print familiarity. The National Assessment of Educational Progress framework was developed to begin at fourth grade. Family variables. SES is used in the current analyses because it tends to be less volatile than family income and encompasses several dimensions of economic conditions and parental capital beyond income. 1981). dummy variable for White children is modeled as a predictor of reading development. Children who passed the language screener received the full ECLS-K direct assessment battery. family practices and resources. the Oral Language Development Scale (Duncan & DeAvila. First. word recognition). Field staff identified child gender during the direct child assessment.260 children recruited from 1. age at first assessment. the field staff conducted direct child assessments. & Hammill. and third-grade school years. and this information was subsequently confirmed during the parent interview (1 ⫽ female. with lower scores indicating lower SES. This was done to reduce testing time and to ensure that children would be required to respond to questions of moderate difficulty. and interactions within family. Children who did not pass an established cut score on the language screener did not receive the standard reading assessment. 1981). IRT scores from each wave were used in the study’s analyses as repeated measures of children’s reading outcomes. A child composite for race provided eight categories for race and/or ethnicity. National Center for Education Statistics. school administrator. race. if no school records were available) as coming from a household whose primary language was not English. Children of all races are included in the current analyses. U. Instrumentation During kindergarten.

Teacher preparation is a variable derived from the sum of five teacher responses concerning their preparation to teach: the number of courses taken on early education. large town. 1 ⫽ monthly. 0 ⫽ no problem. 3 ⫽ very safe).62. dummy variable for private school was generated for the current analyses. A sum score of the degree to which school administrators viewed eight issues in the community surrounding the school as problems (tension from differences.56). Classroom teachers completed selfadministered questionnaires. In the case of missing data on the free or reduced price lunch variable. The number of activities reported varied at each grade level from 10 activities in kindergarten to 14 activities and 6 activities in first and third grades. reading a variety of texts. Involvement in child’s school is based on the sum of parents’ reports of their own or another adult household member’s participation in six activities reflecting involvement in the child’s school (1 ⫽ yes. third-grade ␣ ⫽ .76). Finally. attending an open house. Given differences in the scale across waves. 4 ⫽ completely true).54. and the frequency with which household members visited the library with the child. Teacher experience is the sum of the number of years the teacher had taught at that school and the number of years the teacher had taught at that grade level. schools implementing school-wide Title I programs were identified as highpoverty schools. Conversely. volunteering. third-grade ␣ ⫽ . 4 ⫽ agree. and 4 ⫽ everyday.61. Thus. as reported by school administrators. first-grade ␣ ⫽ . The current analyses define schools located in the central city as urban. the ECLS-K defines school urbanicity on the basis of census tract region: central city. A sum score of these items was calculated across waves and represents literacy instruction (kindergarten ␣ ⫽ . School administrators also completed questionnaires reporting on the percentage of students in the school who were eligible to receive free or reduced price lunch. School administrators also indicated whether the child’s school was public or private. A dichotomous. providing reports on children’s classroom peers.61. The average of the kindergarten and third-grade data was estimated for the first grade (kindergarten ␣ ⫽ . substance abuse. Analytic Sample Exactly 10. 2 ⫽ big problem). School administrator reports on whether the community the school served was supportive of its goals and activities (1 ⫽ strongly disagree. School variables. the present analyses are based on a weighted sample size of 3. gangs.95. 1 ⫽ somewhat of a problem. first-grade ␣ ⫽ . first-grade ␣ ⫽ . 2 ⫽ disagree. respectively. a dichotomous variable reflecting high. 2 ⫽ a little. 3 ⫽ neither agree nor disagree. the highest degree earned. parental warmth is represented by the average of parents’ responses to four items assessing the warmth and closeness experienced in their relationship with the child (1 ⫽ not at all true. violent crime in the area.60).75). first-grade ␣ ⫽ . Only four items were asked in the first grade. first-grade ␣ ⫽ . urban fringe. School poverty status was determined by supplementing this information with school-wide Title I status (at least 50% of the student body is poor). graffiti. 2 ⫽ weekly. third-grade ␣ ⫽ . 4 ⫽ a lot).93).82.61.842. a dichotomous. elementary education. Teachers reported the frequency of children’s participation in several literacy-related activities in the classroom weekly.76. Parents’ reports of the frequency of joint reading with the child and the frequency with which the child read (or pretended to read) had the same 4-point scale: 1 ⫽ not at all. items were rescaled to create a common scale: 0 ⫽ never or hardly ever. practicing reading aloud and silently. unkempt areas. the frequency with which children read (or pretended to read) books outside of school. and the number of courses taken on teaching reading (kindergarten ␣ ⫽ . engaging in writing activities. and people congregating (1 ⫽ none.998 of the children sampled in the fall kindergarten frame and followed to the spring third grade frame had positive. and working on phonics.58. Peers reading below grade is based on teachers’ reports of the number of children reading below grade level in the classroom. Field staff observed and reported the presence of four conditions in the community near the school: litter and trash. Appraisals of the neighborhood setting were provided by three independent sources: parents.(above 50%) and low-poverty (below 50%) schools was generated. vacant buildings.73. and field staff. including working on learning the names of letters. Parental role strain is represented by the average of parents’ responses to nine items that assessed degree of difficulty and strain that the respondent experienced in his or her functioning as a parent (1 ⫽ not at all true. From this.954 children. and child development. 2 ⫽ somewhat safe. participating in fundraising. third-grade ␣ ⫽ . so an average of kindergarten and third grade data was estimated for first grade (kindergarten ␣ ⫽ . 3 ⫽ daily or almost daily. 2 ⫽ somewhat true. 4 ⫽ completely true). Table 1 . third-grade ␣ ⫽ .68. attending a parent–teacher association (PTA) meeting. 2 ⫽ once or twice a week. classroom literacy instruction. and teacher background and beliefs. Library visits with the child within the last month was a dichotomous variable: 1 ⫽ yes. schools in large towns and urban fringe as suburban.69. school administrators. heavy traffic. and small town. rural. 3 ⫽ some. and crime in the area. including the degree to which the following activities were a problem: garbage or litter in the street. burglary or robbery in the area.61). violent crime. 0 ⫽ no). including attending a parent–teacher conference. and schools in small towns and rural areas as rural. 3 ⫽ mostly true. 2 ⫽ somewhat true. Consequently. 0 ⫽ no.238 AIKENS AND BARBARIN the frequency with which parents engaged in joint book reading with the child. Home neighborhood problems is a derived variable created from the sum of parents’ responses about five qualities of their neighborhood. and attending a school event (kindergarten ␣ ⫽ . The average of kindergarten and first-grade data was estimated for third grade (kindergarten ␣ ⫽ . Again. nonzero values on the appropriate sampling weight and were retained in the analytic sample.68) Neighborhood variables. individuals selling or using drugs in the street. Parent reports of home neighborhood safety were assessed with a single item in which parents were asked about how safe it was to play in the neighborhood (1 ⫽ not at all safe. third-grade ␣ ⫽ .69). third-grade ␣ ⫽ . 5 ⫽ strongly agree) served as an index of community support for learning. The average across the four items was used as the index of bad conditions near the school. 3 ⫽ three to six times a week. 3 ⫽ mostly true. dummy variable for suburban is modeled as a predictor of reading development. boarded-up buildings. 1 ⫽ somewhat of a problem. an average of kindergarten and third grade data was estimated for first grade (kindergarten ␣ ⫽ . 2 ⫽ big problem) represents school neighborhood problems (kindergarten ␣ ⫽ . or vacant homes in the area (0 ⫽ no problem.

& Congdon.954. . and school characteristics at Level 3. In addition.asp). and school variables on children’s reading trajectories. a data analysis package designed to analyze complex sample survey data. . neighborhood. neighborhood. significantly smaller deviance statistic). a three-level model with intercept. SLOPE 1: spring of kindergarten to spring of first grade. ␤10j represents the mean linear slope or the learning rate in reading within school j between the fall and the spring of kindergarten. Use of sampling weights accounts for unequal probabilities of selection and nonresponse. and performance at specific points 239 in time beyond what can be accounted for by children’s underlying trajectories. The following equations represent each of these models: Level 1: Y tij ⫽ ␲ 0ij ⫹ ␲ 1ij共SLOPE K兲 ⫹ ␲ 2ij共SLOPE 1兲 ⫹ ␲ 3ij共SLOPE 3兲 . http://am. As exhibited in Figure 1.SOCIOECONOMIC DIFFERENCES IN READING TRAJECTORIES Table 1 Percentage Distributions for Selected Characteristics of the Analytic Sample Population Child race or ethnicity White Black Hispanic Asian Other Child sex Male Female Primary home language English Non-English Household income Below poverty line At or above poverty line Total 58% 16% 19% 4% 5% 52% 48% 89% 12% 21% 79% Note. where Ytij represents child i in school j’s reading performance at time t. Analysis Overview In the present study. and school characteristics help account for variation in children’s initial reading. The HLM program allows for the use of sampling weights that are associated with a complex sampling design and permits the estimation of models with random intercepts and slopes. ␲pij represents the strength and the direction of association between predictor variables apij and child i in school j’s performance at time t. This model provided superior fit to the data as compared with a model including a single linear slope term (i. because the present study concerned the influence of family. ⫹ ␤ 3pj共X 3pj兲 ⫹ r ij. the Level 3 model represents variation in growth parameters across schools. and predictors at each of the three levels was modeled. three linear slope terms (SLOPE K: fall of kindergarten to spring of kindergarten. Because the ECLS-K data are not simple random samples. and achievement outcomes at specific points in time during the period of interest. Specific child demographic characteristics (e. race. longitudinal child sample weights from the ECLS-K kindergarten to third grade data file were used (C15PW0.air. and εij represents the time-specific error of child i in school j at time t. ␲ 2ij ⫽ ␤ 20j . ␲ 1ij ⫽ ␤ 10j . ␲1ij represents the linear slope or the monthly learning rate in reading of child i in school j between the fall and the spring of kindergarten. ⫹ ␤ 0pj共X0pj兲 ⫹ r ij. 2005. which is relevant in the ECLS-K data. Standard errors were adjusted with a Taylor series approach. These models support investigation of covariates or predictors that underlie initial reading achievement. For the present analyses. and the study’s sampling weights were used when computing frequency and descriptive information as well as tests of statistical significance. this included children with parent interview data across the waves of interest in the analyses). with slower reading growth exhibited before and after this period. . Growth curve modeling allows for the estimation of achievement trajectories that model change over time in relation to multiple influences. the analyses took into account the stratification of the survey design.org/default. growth over time. . the Level 2 model represents variation in growth parameters among children within the same school. N ⫽ 3. Initial examination of the smoothed reading trajectories suggested that reading growth was not linear. and it provided greater interpretability. ␲3ij represents the monthly learning rate in reading of child i in school j between the spring of first grade and the spring of third grade. was used for estimation of frequency and descriptive information. SES. Accordingly. ␤30j represents the linear slope or the learning rate in reading within . Bryk. Detail sums may not equal totals because of rounding. and neighborhood characteristics at Level 2. .842. child. ␲0ij represents the intercept or the reading performance of child i in school j at the initial assessment.g. ␲2ij represents the monthly learning rate in reading of child i in school j between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade. 2005) was used to fit the multilevel model. and it also allows inferences from the analyses to be extrapolated to the larger population which the data were meant to represent. . Additional family.. . ␤20j represents the linear slope or the learning rate in reading within school j between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade. It also permits nonequidistant times of observation. The present HLM model has a general three-level nested structure: time at Level 1. ⫹ ␤ 1pj共X 1pj兲 ⫹ r ij. Level 2: ␲ 0ij ⫽ ␤ 00j . many children exhibited a spike or growth spurt in reading scores between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade. gender. AM (American Institutes of Research & Cohen. ⫹ ␲ pij共apij兲 ⫹ ε ij. The HLM 6 software (Raudenbush. presents the demographic characteristics of those whose data are represented in the current analyses. In the present study. The Level 1 model represents how each child changes over time. The data of all models were weighted at the child level in an effort to account for unequal probabilities of selection and nonresponse. growth through third grade.. where ␤00j represents the mean intercept or the reading performance within school j at the initial assessment. . . SLOPE 3: spring of first grade to spring of third grade). and ␲ 3ij ⫽ ␤ 30j . age) influence children’s reading status in the fall of kindergarten and rates of reading growth through third grade. ⫹ ␤ 2pj共X 2pj兲 ⫹ r ij. growth curve models were estimated with hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) techniques. family. four repeated measures of reading skills are modeled as a developmental trajectory.e. .

09 1998 199 1998 1998 1998 Time of Assessment Figure 1. ⫹ ␥ 0p0 共X0p0 兲 ⫹ u 00j. Parents in the ECLS-K reported on aspects of the home environment across waves.43 42. ␤10j. . ⫹ ␥ 2p0 共X 2p0 兲 ⫹ u 20j. ␤ 10j ⫽ ␥ 100 . ␥200 represents the mean learning rate in reading across schools between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade. Singer & Willet. Because time-varying predictors were entered at Level 2.59 76. and third grade in Table 1. ␥Xp0 represents the strength and the direction of association between predictor variables XXp0 and mean linear learning rate within school j during the three periods of interest. . 2000 2001 2002 Time of Assessment Mean Reading Scale Score Mean Reading Scale Score Time of Assessment School 4 144. ␤20j. ␲1ij. Level 3: ␤ 00j ⫽ ␥ 000 . whether time varying or time invariant. Results Descriptive Statistics of Analytic Sample To characterize family. .76 Mean Reading Scale Score Mean Reading Scale Score 240 110.09 2002 1998 1999 School 3 144. 2002. and rij represents school j’s deviation from the reading score predicted by the model. initial performance) and slope (i.43 42.26 8.e.09 1998 1999 2000 2001 School 2 144. . ␲3ij. school j between the spring of first grade and the spring of third grade. ␲2ij.AIKENS AND BARBARIN School 1 144.59 76.26 8. ␤0pj represents the strength and the direction of association between predictor variables X0pj and child i in school j’s reading performance at the initial assessment. In HLM models. making these variables time varying. all contextual predictors were grand mean centered at zero to improve interpretability (Raudenbush & Bryk.e. ␲0ij. All time varying and time invariant covariates were entered into the models per recommendations by Singer and Willett (2003). whereas time invariant predictors reflect data that do not change over time. and uij equals overall deviation across schools from the reading score predicted by the model. and school characteristics of participating children. ␤Xpj represents the strength and the direction of association between predictor variables XXpj and child i in school j’s linear learning rate in reading during the three periods of interest.09 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 Time of Assessment Smoothed plots of reading trajectories of a random subsample of children in four schools. ␤30j.S. ⫹ ␥ 1p0 共X 1p0 兲 ⫹ u 10j. growth over time) parameters. ␤00j. neighborhood. with the exception of dummy codes. whereas time-invariant predictors predicted the intercept (i.. For example. child’s gender and race and child’s attendance (or nonattendance) at center-based care the year prior to kindergarten are time invariant. where ␥000 represents the mean intercept or the reading performance at the initial assessment across schools. Time varying variables include those that may change over time and that are measured at multiple time points.43 42..59 76. ␥100 represents the mean linear slope or the learning rate in reading across schools between the fall and the spring of kindergarten. predicted the intercept and slope parameters. classroom and teacher characteristics were aggregated and used as covariates at the school level. we present descriptive information for the analytic sample in kindergarten. regression coefficients were interpreted as the value of the dependent variable when the contextual predictor and all the other variables in the model were equal to zero or the mean. ⫹ ␥ 3p0 共X 3p0 兲 ⫹ u 30j.26 8. School-level variables. As might be expected in a representative sample of U.26 8. 2003). Accordingly. ␥0p0 represents the strength and the direction of association between predictor variables X0p0 and mean initial reading performance within school j. ␥300 represents the mean learning rate in reading across schools between the spring of first grade and the spring of third grade. .76 110. . ␤ 20j ⫽ ␥ 200 . . and ␤ 30j ⫽ ␥ 300 .76 110. . . Time-varying predictors predicted time-specific performance.76 110. they also predicted the intercept and slope parameters.59 76. Because HLM cannot fit a four-level model.43 42. Neighborhood variables that were associated with school environment were entered as covariates at Level 3. first grade.

the gap grew by 9. suggesting that reading trajectories varied across children. monthly reading growth between the spring of first grade and the spring of third grade (linear slope).6 points. SUPPORT ⫽ neighborhood support for the school’s goals and activities (as reported by school administrators). ␲ 2ij ⫽ ␤ 20j. ⫹ ␲ 3ij共SLOPE 3兲 ⫹ ε ij. WHITE ⫽ child is White. and ␤ 12j ⫽ ␥ 120 . Level 3: ␤ 00j ⫽ ␥ 000 ⫹ u 00j. we more fully discuss the meaning of these reading point differences.1 points in the reading score gap between the poorest children and the most affluent children from kindergarten to third grade.8 points to 13. FEMALE ⫽ child is female. growth per month in reading between the fall and the spring of kindergarten (linear slope). PRE K ⫽ center-based care prior to kindergarten.1 Level 1: READ tij ⫽ ␲ 0ij ⫹ ␲ 1ij共SLOPE K兲 ⫹ ␲ 2ij共SLOPE 1兲 ⫹ ␲ 3ij共SLOPE 3兲 ⫹ ε ij. and ␤ 30j ⫽ ␥ 300 . SES ⫽ child’s socioeconomic status. SPROBS ⫽ school neighborhood problems. Significant socioeconomic differences of 11. By the spring of first grade. mean initial reading achievement was 25. Reading achievement was modeled as a linear function of children’s initial reading (intercept). In the following section. BOOKS ⫽ number of books in the home.001). PREPARATION ⫽ teacher’s preparation to teach. ␤ 11j ⫽ ␥ 110 . HPROBS ⫽ neighborhood problems. a conditional model was estimated with child demographic characteristics included as predictors of children’s initial reading scores and monthly rates of growth in reading across the three time periods. as noted.9 points from the fall to the spring of kindergarten. and 1. and ␲ 3ij ⫽ ␤ 30j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 31j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 32j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 33j共SES兲. 1 . and 5% were reported as other). monthly reading growth between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade (linear slope). See Figure 1 for examples of children’s smoothed reading trajectories in a random subsample of four schools. These differences increased over the first 4 years of schooling. and 44% of the children were non-White (16% were reported by parents as Black.7 points to 23.86 points per month in reading between the fall and the spring of kindergarten ( p ⬍ . BAD ⫽ bad conditions near the school. Level 2: ␲ 0ij ⫽ ␤ 00j ⫹ r ij.72 points ( p ⬍ . with the most rapid acquisition of skills taking place between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade. In addition. 4% were reported as Asian. Overall. WARMTH ⫽ parental warmth. 19% were reported as Hispanic.001). ␤ 10j ⫽ ␥ 100 . English was the main language in about 9 of 10 homes. This is an overall increase of 16. ␲ 1ij ⫽ ␤ 10j. Results from the unconditional model suggested that across children. children’s reading achievement and reading achievement variability increased over time. ␲ 1ij ⫽ ␤ 10j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 11j共FEMALE兲 Reading Trajectories Initially. Thus. an unconditional model of reading development was estimated to establish the functional form of reading growth in the full sample.001).6 points to 27.001). ␤ 01j ⫽ ␥ 010 . and about 1 in 5 families had household incomes that place them below the federal poverty line. though most of the increase occurred in the first grade year. and PRIVATE ⫽ private school. AGE ⫽ child age. ␲ 3ij ⫽ ␤ 30j. ␤ 20j ⫽ ␥ 200 . Level 2: ␲ 0ij ⫽ ␤ 00j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 01j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 02j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 03j共SES兲 ⫹ r ij. By the end of third grade. READ ⫽ child’s reading IRT score.66 points per In the equations. HSAFETY ⫽ neighborhood safety. it grew another 3. STRAIN ⫽ parental role strain. The reading gap between the lowest and the highest quintiles grew by 2. EXPERIENCE ⫽ teacher’s number of years experience teaching. INSTRUCT ⫽ classroom instruction practices. The estimated unconditional model is represented by the following equations. ␤ 10j ⫽ ␥ 100 . HOMELIT ⫽ home literacy environment. Level 1: READ tij ⫽ ␲ 0ij ⫹ ␲ 1ij共SLOPE K兲 ⫹ ␲ 2ij共SLOPE 1兲 ␤ 02j ⫽ ␥ 020 . ␲ 2ij ⫽ ␤ 20j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 21j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 22j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 23j共SES兲. Next.42 points per month in reading between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade ( p ⬍ . IRT scores were observed in the fall of kindergarten. BELOW ⫽ number of children reading below grade. 2. 241 month in reading between the spring of first grade and the spring of third grade ( p ⬍ . ␤ 03j ⫽ ␥ 030 . SUBURB ⫽ suburban neighborhood.1 points were observed between the lowest and the highest quintiles in children’s reading. the rate of children’s reading growth differed across the three time periods. ⫹ ␤ 12j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 13j共SES兲.2 points. White children made up the majority of the sample (56%). INVOLVE ⫽ parent involvement in the school. there was significant variation around intercept and linear slope terms. and children gained an average of 1. Level 3: ␤ 00j ⫽ ␥ 000 ⫹ u 00j. The figure illustrates the spike or the heightened reading skill acquisition occurring between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade. Table 2 presents children’s mean reading achievement. and measurement error.SOCIOECONOMIC DIFFERENCES IN READING TRAJECTORIES children. POVERTY ⫽ school poverty concentration.

04 1.02 2.02 2.01 0.02 2.3 92.8 18.1 32.5 17. n ⫽ 765.11 0.2 67. n ⫽ 767.04 0.8 0.5 1.1 0.3 0.2 6.8 16.14 4.4 0. SES ⫽ socioeconomic status. for Quintile 4.6 3.6 1.7 17.03 0.02 0.1 4.4 0.01 0.19 0.03 4.01 0.1 0.30 0.22 0.6 1.04 2.3 18.8 0.5 0.8 0.19 0.5 1.5 4.11 1.01 0.01 2.74 0.26 0.08 4.04 0.04 0.02 0.7 3.7 1.7 55.52 0.66 0.7 6.4 7.04 0.3 3.62 0.5 1.67 0.5 39.54 0.5 18.8 4.2 17.04 0.6 0.1 4.48 0.14 1.04 0.42 0.2 0.01 2.36 0.19 0.01 4.1 1.23 0.03 0.20 4% 11.5 1.03 0.7 1.9 6.15 2.4 16.02 0.13 2.01 0.6 0.05 4.01 0.11 1.01 0.07 0.7 0.03 0.18 0.01 0.2 6.02 0.9 1.03 0.2 0.26 0.02 0.07 0.7 4.6 3.23 0.962.19 2.02 M 26.01 2.4 6.13 3.01 0.2 0.23 0.3 18.907.0 0.66 0.2 113.3 17.1 45.8 1.01 0.1 0.04 4.7 18.5 1.5 100.04 0.04 0. For Quintile 1.7 3.09 1.04 0.31 0.32 0.1 4.4 0.19 2.04 0.9 119.8 3.75 0.7 0.15 6.6 0.21 15% 11.1 69.4 1.7 6.7 0.81 0.2 0.06 0.0 0.1 2.3 4.6 7.3 3.5 16.01 0.05 0.06 0.22 9% 11.2 0.8 4.3 0.4 0.81 0.02 M 24.7 17.01 2.7 3.2 6.6 1.05 0.7 3.05 0.01 0.7 0.57 0.6 SE Quintile 4 % 0.2 6.7 3.2 17. for Quintile 3.64 0.11 0.60 0.02 2.7 107.01 0.03 0.2 0.01 0.05 0.01 0.15 0.7 0.01 0.07 0.23 0.5 102.2 74. n ⫽ 758.3 18.7 17.05 4.05 0.0 0.1 0.4 0.1 4.05 0.28 0.17 Note.04 0.12 3.03 0.8 4.5 1.13 1.07 0.3 108.5 18.45 0.6 SE Total % 0.1 1.65 0.04 4.1 0.05 0.23 0.01 0.01 2.02 2.51 0.6 SE Quintile 2 % 0.6 0.6 40. HLM ⫽ hierarchical linear modeling.7 23.35 0.33 0.57 0.3 0.9 0.03 0.2 0.7 0.0 0.2 171.37 0.4 0.39 0.5 2.5 57.5 115.5 18.64 0.19 0.1 4.61 0.6 3.9 3.04 0.72 0.6 16.7 1.24 0.5 3.1 0.6 16.01 M 27.833.4 0.500.08 1.9 111.7 2.4 88.02 0.1 0.2 17.5 3.03 0.7 3.6 18.21 5.03 0.01 0.15 0.03 0.05 0.5 6.7 5.187.15 3.4 0.5 0.01 3.2 0.7 6.6 23.8 31.07 0.31 0.55 0.15 2.01 0.3 0.53 0.4 0.64 0.7 75.04 0. Numbers in parentheses are standard errors.9 4.1 0.5 1.4 4.8 6.1 56.04 4.7 0.5 3.02 4.7 0.49 0.5 0.06 0.03 3. Total N ⫽ 3.02 0.03 0.04 1. .9 0.15 0.04 0.AIKENS AND BARBARIN 242 Table 2 Distributions of Variables Used in HLM Models by SES Quintiles Quintile 1 Variable Reading fall K Reading spring K Reading spring 1st Reading spring 3rd Home literacy at K Home literacy at 1st Home literacy at 3rd Books in home in K Books in home in 1st Books in home in 3rd Involvement in school at K Involvement in school at 1st Involvement in school at 3rd Parent role strain at K Parent role strain at 1st Parent role strain at 3rd Parent warmth at K Parent warmth at 1st Parent warmth at 3rd Home neighborhood problems at K Home neighborhood problems at 1st Home neighborhood problems at 3rd Home neighborhood safety at K Home neighborhood safety at 1st Home neighborhood safety at 3rd School neighborhood problems at K School neighborhood problems at 1st School neighborhood problems at 3rd Community support for learning at K Community support for learning at 1st Community support for learning at 3rd Bad conditions near school at K Bad conditions near school at 1st Bad conditions near school at 3rd Peers reading below grade at K Peers reading below grade at 1st Peers reading below grade at 3rd Attends high-poverty school in K Attends high-poverty school in 1st Attends high-poverty school in 3rd Literacy instruction at K Literacy instruction at 1st Literacy instruction at 3rd Teacher experience at K Teacher experience at 1st Teacher experience at 3rd Teacher preparation at K Teacher preparation at 1st Teacher preparation at 3rd M 21.8 3.8 0.0 0. n ⫽ 758.32 5.8 3.04 3.12 0.8 0.8 15.02 0.6 78.7 3.59 0.7 0.9 23.04 2.1 0.04 0.4 1.2 1.962.6 16.7 0.37 0.01 0.9 0.2 7.1 0.9 3.7 3.7 3.8 40.08 1.04 0.15 0. for Quintile 2.01 0.04 0.20 0.1 23.6 18.08 2.16 67% 59% 48% 37% 26% 48% 60% 51% 42% 31% 22% 41% 37% 11.59 0.54 0.4 4.01 0.02 4.11 0.9 0.7 0.04 4.5 3.01 M 33.05 0.6 6.6 1.3 16.9 0.04 0.5 1.9 16.3 17.03 0.8 16.06 0.7 4.02 0.13 0.02 2.6 2.16 2.8 3.11 0.7 140.4 0.0 0. K ⫽ kindergarten.2 112.54 0.05 0.5 72.8 17.7 17.24 0.9 0.04 0.05 0.04 0.23 0.1 0.9 18.4 0.5 2.81 0.4 17.2 4.22 0.2 16.8 0.3 4.13 0.10 4.7 SE Quintile 5 % 0.15 0.01 M 28.5 4.6 SE 0.02 0.01 0.25 2.3 17.1 95.05 0.05 1.62 0.55 0.21 0.21 0.85 0.02 0.3 18.5 0.04 4.05 4.03 0.27 0.7 155.0 0.9 16.3 72.47 0.7 35.01 2.4 14.02 1.03 0.9 3.27 % 24% 11.07 1.25 0.0 23.7 3.0 0.06 0.1 0.48 0.5 23.05 1.8 0.18 0.02 0.1 19.46 0.05 0.9 3.9 0.6 0.7 6.6 3.05 0.57 0. 3rd ⫽ third grade.04 0.02 0.19 0.6 1.7 38.01 0.20 18% 11.04 0.14 0.03 1.4 0.8 6.01 0.33 0.7 3.0 6.05 4.6 SE Quintile 3 % 0.7 63.31 0.9 0.6 107.03 0.20 0.7 3.24 0.10 0.14 3.22 0.16 0.0 0.04 4.7 3.6 0.2 0.8 96.03 2.2 6.02 2.4 0. n ⫽ 783.12 2.28 0. 1st ⫽ first grade.7 18.296.3 18.5 1.05 0.7 3.7 2.0 3.8 3.5 0.49 0.02 2. for Quintile 5.2 18.03 0.

It is a head start of more than 2 months relative to children 1 standard deviation below mean SES.24 (0. Given that 1. According to this piecewise model.00 (0.01)* Note.04)*** 1. ␲ 1ij ⫽ ␤ 10j ⫹ ␤ 11j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 12j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 13j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 14j共SES兲 ⫹ ␤ 15j共PRE K兲. so did children’s reading achievement at the initial assessment in the fall of kindergarten.02)*** ⫺0.42 (0.15)*** ⫺0.02 points per month between the spring of first grade and the spring of third grade. Reading Achievement. and Growth ␤ 31j ⫽ ␥ 310 . Of most importance are the parameter estimates representing the effect of family SES on children’s initial reading skills and monthly growth during the three periods.04) 0. female and highSES children gained reading skills at a faster rate than did their peers between the fall and the spring of kindergarten.11 (0.02) 0. and from higher SES households had higher reading scores at the initial assessment. ␤ 20j ⫽ ␥ 200 .01. The rate of these advantages in Next.29)*** 0. White. ␲ 3ij ⫽ ␤ 30j ⫹ ␤ 31j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 32j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 33j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 34j共SES兲 ⫹ ␤ 35j共PRE K兲.78 (0.19 points per month between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade. and time-specific reading performance beyond what could be predicted by children’s underlying trajectories and demographic characteristics.04)** 0. and 0. Thus.00 (0. we expected that children who differed by 1 standard deviation in SES would differ by 0. ␤ 32j ⫽ ␥ 320 . ␤ 21j ⫽ ␥ 210 . children who were older.02)*** 0.24 points higher than children of average SES and 4.019 (0.00 (0.06 (0. 0. 243 reading growth differs across the three time periods. * p ⱕ . ␲ 6ij ⫽ ␤ 60j.097 (0.10 points per month in the rate of reading skill acquisition during the kindergarten year. children at 1 standard deviation above the mean in SES had reading scores at the initial kindergarten assessment that were 2. Moreover.189 (0. female. female. ** p ⱕ .24-point advantage in initial reading is a head start. Numbers in parentheses are robust standard errors. with the period between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade being that of greatest differentiation by SES (see Table 3 for parameter estimates). When other child characteristics were controlled for. 1–3 ⫽ first grade to third grade.14 (0. number of books in home. ␤ 23j ⫽ ␥ 230 .43) 2.SOCIOECONOMIC DIFFERENCES IN READING TRAJECTORIES ␤ 13j ⫽ ␥ 130 . and younger.05. parental role strain. *** p ⱕ . K ⫽ kindergarten. ␲ 2ij ⫽ ␤ 20j ⫹ ␤ 21j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 22j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 23j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 24j共SES兲 ⫹ ␤ 25j共PRE K兲.86 was the average monthly learning rate for the full sample in the kindergarten year. a 2. This model revealed the effects of family covariates on initial reading scores. SES ⫽ socioeconomic status. monthly reading growth during the three periods.03)** 0.60 (0. for children 1 standard deviation above average in SES. Level 1: READ tij ⫽ ␲ 0ij ⫹ ␲ 1ij共SLOPE K兲 ⫹ ␲ 2ij共SLOPE 1兲 ⫹ ␲ 3ij共SLOPE 3兲 ⫹ ␲ 4ij共HOMELIT兲 ⫹ ␲ 5ij共BOOKS兲 ⫹ ␲ 6ij共INVOLVE兲 ⫹ ␲ 7ij共STRAIN兲 ⫹ ␲ 8ij共WARMTH兲 ⫹ ε ij.48 points higher than children 1 standard deviation below the mean in SES.00) 0. Level 2: ␲ 0ij ⫽ ␤ 00j ⫹ ␤ 01j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 02j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 03j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 04j共SES兲 ⫹ ␤ 05j共PRE K兲 ⫹ r ij.001. ␲ 4ij ⫽ ␤ 40j.00) 0. and parental warmth) were added to the model to assess the extent to which SES gaps in initial reading and monthly reading growth rates during the three periods of interest could be explained by family characteristics beyond demographic characteristics.01 (0.03)*** 0.02)*** 0. and high-SES children gained reading skills at a faster rate than did other children between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade. In addition. as SES increased. Table 3 Parameter Estimates and Standard Errors for the Child Model Independent variable Intercept K linear slope K–1 linear slope 1–3 linear slope Age at initial assessment Female White SES 0. ␲ 5ij ⫽ ␤ 50j. . and ␤ 33j ⫽ ␥ 330 . White. and high-SES children gained reading skills at a faster rate between the spring of first grade and the spring of third grade. higher SES relates to higher initial achievement in the fall of kindergarten and more rapid reading growth per month across the three periods of interest. Family Characteristics. In fact. of more than 1 month relative to children of average SES.15 (0.00)*** ⫺0.15 (0. school involvement. family covariates (home literacy environment. K–1 ⫽ kindergarten to first grade. on the basis of the model.

children who attended center-based care the year prior to kindergarten were expected to have higher initial reading scores (T ⫽ 4.07).20.17 (0. *** p ⱕ .29)*** 0. ** p ⱕ .36) Note.016 (0.01 (0.16 (0.88 (0.33)*** 0. Neighborhood Characteristics.46. ␤ 10j ⫽ ␥ 100 . but they did not account for many of the SES differences in the rate at which children gained reading skills during the three periods of interest. with the addition of family variables.01 (0. Comparisons of the SES coefficient on the intercept and the three slope terms from this model with those of the previous demographic model indicated the extent to which mean differences in initial reading scores and learning rates in reading were attributable to family characteristics.10.09).10 (0.42 (0.01) 0. ␤ 30j ⫽ ␥ 300 .00 (0. On the basis of the model. ␤ 23j ⫽ ␥ 230 .03)*** ⫺0.104 (0.25 (0. 1–3 ⫽ first grade to third grade. K–1 ⫽ kindergarten to first grade.04) 0.05. ␤ 24j ⫽ ␥ 240 . ␤ 05j ⫽ ␥ 050 .31 (0. ␤ 22j ⫽ ␥ 220 . characteristics associated with the family context helped account for SES differences in children’s initial reading scores. ␤ 15j ⫽ ␥ 150 . ␤ 40j ⫽ ␥ 400 . ␤ 01j ⫽ ␥ 010 .15 (0.001.47 (0. ␤ 25j ⫽ ␥ 250 . K ⫽ kindergarten. effect size [es] ⫽ .05.04)*** 0.05 (0. ␤ 80j ⫽ ␥ 800 . Next. ␤ 11j ⫽ ␥ 110 . . children with richer home literacy environments (T ⫽ 6.001.16 (0. Table 4 Parameter Estimates and Standard Errors for the Family Model Independent variable Intercept K linear slope K–1 linear slope 1–3 linear slope Age at initial assessment Female White SES Center-based care Home literacy environment Books in home Involvement in school Parental role strain Parental warmth 0.00 (0.02) 0. ␤ 13j ⫽ ␥ 130 . Numbers in parentheses are robust standard errors.49 (0.00 (0.10) ⫺1. ␤ 02j ⫽ ␥ 020 .04) had enhanced time-specific reading performance during the first 4 years of school.02). Level 3: ␤ 00j ⫽ ␥ 000 ⫹ u 00j. ␤ 50j ⫽ ␥ 500 . ␤ 14j ⫽ ␥ 140 .42) 1. and ␤ 04j ⫽ ␥ 040 .00) 0. though receipt of such care was not expected to relate to reading growth during any of the three time periods through third grade (see Table 4).01. ␤ 35j ⫽ ␥ 350 . ␤ 12j ⫽ ␥ 120 . p ⬍ .02) Time-specific performance 0. ␤ 03j ⫽ ␥ 030 . es ⫽ . ␤ 20j ⫽ ␥ 200 .08)*** 0. es ⫽ . ␤ 60j ⫽ ␥ 600 .42 (0.01 (0.02)*** ⫺0. ␤ 70j ⫽ ␥ 700 .16)*** 1. though the three slope parameters were not reduced. SES ⫽ socioeconomic status. Thus. In fact. es ⫽ . the SES-intercept coefficient was reduced by 16%.33)*** ⫺0. * p ⱕ .01 (0.AIKENS AND BARBARIN 244 ␲ 7ij ⫽ ␤ 70j. ␲ 8ij ⫽ ␤ 80j.05) 0.04) ⫺0.28.03)** 0. p ⬍ .001.07 (0. and ␤ 34j ⫽ ␥ 340 . Notably. ␤ 32j ⫽ ␥ 320 .02)*** 0. and parents who were less strained in the parenting role (T ⫽ ⫺3. and Growth ␤ 31j ⫽ ␥ 310 .13 (0. p ⬍ . ␤ 21j ⫽ ␥ 210 .001. p ⬍ . neighborhood covariates were added to the model to allow assessment of the extent to which SES gaps in initial reading and ␤ 33j ⫽ ␥ 330 .00) 0.04)** 0. Reading Achievement.00)*** ⫺0.00)* 0.188 (0. more books at home (T ⫽ 2.04)*** 1.

␲ 3ij ⫽ ␤ 30j ⫹ ␤ 31j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 32j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 33j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 34j共SES兲 ⫹ ␤ 35j共PRE K兲. ␲ 2ij ⫽ ␤ 20j ⫹ ␤ 21j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 22j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 23j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 24j共SES兲 ⫹ ␤ 25j共PRE K兲. but they did account for expected differences in rates of children’s monthly reading growth as children matured. ␤ 15j ⫽ ␥ 150 . neighborhood conditions did not account much for expected differences in children’s initial reading achievement in the fall of kindergarten. ␤ 40j ⫽ ␥ 400 . ␤ 35j ⫽ ␥ 350 . p ⬍ . ␲ 10ij ⫽ ␤ 100j. ␤ 14j ⫽ ␥ 140 . and the slope parameter for the period between the spring of first grade and the spring of third grade was reduced by 2%. ␲ 1ij ⫽ ␤ 10j ⫹ ␤ 11j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 12j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 13j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 14j共SES兲 ⫹ ␤ 15j共PRE K兲. ␤ 24j ⫽ ␥ 240 . and ␤ 100j ⫽ ␥ 1000 . ␤ 02j ⫽ ␥ 020 . the SES-intercept coefficient was reduced by 2%. Level 3: ␤ 00j ⫽ ␥ 000 ⫹ ␥ 001 共SUBURB兲 ⫹ ␥ 002 共SUPPORT兲 ⫹ ␥ 003 共SPROBS兲 ⫹ ␥ 004 共BAD兲 ⫹ u 00j. es ⫽ . the slope parameter for the period between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade was reduced by 1%. ␤ 11j ⫽ ␥ 110 . ␤ 50j ⫽ ␥ 500 . es ⫽ .19. ␤ 12j ⫽ ␥ 120 . ␤ 80j ⫽ ␥ 800 . ␲ 5ij ⫽ ␤ 50j. ⫹ ␥ 203 共SPROBS兲 ⫹ ␥ 204 共BAD兲. Community support for learning was related to higher school mean reading scores at the initial kindergarten assessment (T ⫽ 2. ␤ 03j ⫽ ␥ 030 . ␲ 4ij ⫽ ␤ 40j. ␤ 30j ⫽ ␥ 300 ⫹ ␥ 301 共SUBURB兲 ⫹ ␥ 302 共SUPPORT兲 ⫹ ␥ 303 共SPROBS兲 ⫹ ␥ 304 共BAD兲. this model suggested that beyond family and demographic characteristics. ␤ 05j ⫽ ␥ 050 . ␤ 04j ⫽ ␥ 040 .07. ␤ 01j ⫽ ␥ 010 . The kindergarten slope parameter was unchanged with the addition of neighborhood covariates. and ␤ 90j ⫽ ␥ 900 . ␲ 9ij ⫽ ␤ 90j. ␤ 70j ⫽ ␥ 700 .SOCIOECONOMIC DIFFERENCES IN READING TRAJECTORIES 245 monthly reading growth rates could be explained by neighborhood characteristics beyond children’s demographic and family characteristics. ␤ 34j ⫽ ␥ 340 . ⫹ ␲ 6ij共INVOLVE兲 ⫹ ␲ 7ij共STRAIN兲 ⫹ ␲ 8ij共WARMTH兲 ␤ 23j ⫽ ␥ 230 .03) had constrained reading growth during the kindergarten year and during the period between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade (T ⫽ ⫺2. see Table 5).05. Level 2: ␲ 0ij ⫽ ␤ 00j ⫹ ␤ 01j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 02j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 03j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 04j共SES兲 ⫹ ␤ 05j共PRE K兲 ⫹ r ij.05. In addition. es ⫽ . schools with poor conditions in the surrounding area (T ⫽ ⫺2. With the addition of neighborhood variables. ␤ 60j ⫽ ␥ 600 . ␤ 31j ⫽ ␥ 310 . ␲ 6ij ⫽ ␤ 60j. School Characteristics. Reading Achievement. ␤ 10j ⫽ ␥ 100 ⫹ ␥ 101 共SUBURB兲 ⫹ ␥ 102 共SUPPORT兲 ⫹ ␥ 103 共SPROBS兲 ⫹ ␥ 104 共BAD兲. p ⬍ . p ⬍ . ␤ 32j ⫽ ␥ 320 . ␲ 7ij ⫽ ␤ 70j. ␲ 8ij ⫽ ␤ 80j. ␤ 13j ⫽ ␥ 130 . Thus. ⫹ ␲ 3ij共SLOPE 3兲 ⫹ ␲ 4ij共HOMELIT兲 ⫹ ␲ 5ij共BOOKS兲 ␤ 22j ⫽ ␥ 220 . and Growth To assess the extent to which SES gaps in initial reading and monthly reading growth rates could be explained by school char- . ␤ 33j ⫽ ␥ 330 . ␤ 20j ⫽ ␥ 200 ⫹ ␥ 201 共SUBURB兲 ⫹ ␥ 202 共SUPPORT兲 Level 1: READ tij ⫽ ␲ 0ij ⫹ ␲ 1ij共SLOPE K兲 ⫹ ␲ 2ij共SLOPE 1兲 ␤ 21j ⫽ ␥ 210 .02).79.1890.01. ␤ 25j ⫽ ␥ 250 . ⫹ ␲ 9ij共HPROBS兲 ⫹ ␲ 10ij共HSAFETY兲 ⫹ ε ij.

41) 1.00 (0.02 (0.01. ␤ 12j ⫽ ␥ 120 .16 (0.01 (0.001.01 (0.15 (0.02 (0.01) ⫺0.00 (0.AIKENS AND BARBARIN 246 Table 5 Parameter Estimates and Standard Errors for the Neighborhood Model Independent variable Intercept K linear slope K–1 linear slope 1–3 linear slope Age at initial assessment Female White SES Home literacy environment Books in home Involvement in school Parental role strain Parental warmth Center-based care Home neighborhood problems Home neighborhood safety Suburban neighborhood Community support for learning School neighborhood problems Bad conditions near school 0.10) ⫺1. ⫹ ␥ 006 共PRIVATE兲 ⫹ u 00j.01 (0. acteristics.36)** ⫺0.02 (0.02)*** ⫺0. ␲ 2ij ⫽ ␤ 20j ⫹ ␤ 21j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 22j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 23j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 24j共SES兲 ⫹ ␤ 25j共PRE K兲.13 (0.02) Note. * p ⱕ .05 (0. ␤ 04j ⫽ ␥ 040 .03)*** 0. Level 1: READ tij ⫽ ␲ 0ij ⫹ ␲ 1ij共SLOPE K兲 ⫹ ␲ 2ij共SLOPE 1兲 ⫹ ␲ 3ij共SLOPE 3兲 ⫹ ␲ 4ij共HOMELIT兲 ⫹ ␲ 5ij共BOOKS兲 ⫹ ␲ 6ij共INVOLVE兲 ⫹ ␲ 7ij共STRAIN兲 ⫹ ␲ 8ij共WARMTH兲 ⫹ ε ij.01) 1.04)*** 1. ␤ 15j ⫽ ␥ 150 .03)* Time-specific performance 0.85 (0.03) 0.00 (0.48 (0.03) ⫺0. K–1 ⫽ kindergarten to first grade. Level 2: ␲ 0ij ⫽ ␤ 00j ⫹ ␤ 01j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 02j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 03j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 04j共SES兲 ⫹ ␤ 05j共PRE K兲 ⫹ r ij.00) 0.39) ⫺0.21 (0.17 (0.03) ⫺0. and ␲ 8ij ⫽ ␤ 80j.05) 0.18) 0. ␤ 03j ⫽ ␥ 030 . ␤ 10j ⫽ ␥ 100 ⫹ ␥ 101 共BELOW兲 ⫹ ␥ 102 共INSTRUCT兲 ⫹ ␥ 103 共EXPERIENCE兲 ⫹ ␥ 104 共PREPARATION兲 ⫹ ␥ 105 共POVERTY兲 ⫹ ␥ 106 共PRIVATE兲.016 (0. beyond children’s demographic and family characteristics. Number of schools ⫽ 939.37 (0. ␲ 6ij ⫽ ␤ 60j. ␤ 20j ⫽ ␥ 200 ⫹ ␥ 201 共BELOW兲 ⫹ ␥ 202 共INSTRUCT兲 ⫹ ␥ 203 共EXPERIENCE兲 ⫹ ␥ 204 共PREPARATION兲 ⫹ ␥ 205 共POVERTY兲 ⫹ ␥ 206 共PRIVATE兲. *** p ⱕ .08)*** 0. ␲ 7ij ⫽ ␤ 70j.25) 0. ⫹ ␥ 004 共PREPARATION兲 ⫹ ␥ 005 共POVERTY兲 ␤ 22j ⫽ ␥ 220 . we added school covariates to the model. .02)*** 0. ␲ 3ij ⫽ ␤ 30j ⫹ ␤ 31j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 32j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 33j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 34j共SES兲 ⫹ ␤ 35j共PRE K兲.15)*** ⫺0.30 (0.47 (0.00) 0. 1–3 ⫽ first grade to third grade.05) 0.02 (0. ␲ 1ij ⫽ ␤ 10j ⫹ ␤ 11j共 AGE兲 ⫹ ␤ 12j共FEMALE兲 ⫹ ␤ 13j共WHITE兲 ⫹ ␤ 14j共SES兲 ⫹ ␤ 15j共PRE K兲.05) 0.03)** 0.01 (0. K ⫽ kindergarten.02 (0. ␤ 05j ⫽ ␥ 050 .00)* 0. ␤ 13j ⫽ ␥ 130 . SES ⫽ socioeconomic status.07 (0. ⫹ ␥ 003 共EXPERIENCE兲 ␤ 21j ⫽ ␥ 210 .37) 0.07 (0. ** p ⱕ .18 (0.29)*** 0.177 (0.01 (0.33)*** ⫺0.01) ⫺0.02) 0.01 (0.04) ⫺0. ␤ 11j ⫽ ␥ 110 .33)*** 0. ␲ 4ij ⫽ ␤ 40j.10 (0. ␤ 02j ⫽ ␥ 020 . Numbers in parentheses are robust standard errors.05) ⫺0. Level 3: ␤ 00j ⫽ ␥ 000 ⫹ ␥ 001 共BELOW兲 ⫹ ␥ 002 共INSTRUCT兲 ␤ 01j ⫽ ␥ 010 .00)*** ⫺0.08 (0.02) ⫺0.01) ⫺0. ␤ 14j ⫽ ␥ 140 .05.16) 0.105 (0.07 (0.03 (0.41 (0.61) 0.60 (0. ␲ 5ij ⫽ ␤ 50j.16 (0.00 (0.04)* 0.04)*** 0.09 (0.99 (0.01) ⫺0.42 (0.00 (0.04) 0.

00 (0.09 (0. schools and neighborhoods best explain SES gaps in children’s rates of monthly reading growth.03)** 0. 1–3 ⫽ first grade to third grade.01)* 1.05. these models suggest that the family context best accounts for SES disparities in children’s initial reading achievement as they enter school.05) 0.00 (0. ␤ 35j ⫽ ␥ 350 . ␤ 70j ⫽ ␥ 700 .06 (0.16)*** ⫺0.04)*** 1.SOCIOECONOMIC DIFFERENCES IN READING TRAJECTORIES ␤ 23j ⫽ ␥ 230 .03)*** 0.01) ⫺0.01 (0.00) 0.02 (0.92. and the kindergarten slope parameter was reduced by 4%. K–1 ⫽ kindergarten to first grade.05. In sum. 1997). Notably. and ␤ 80j ⫽ ␥ 800 .33)*** 0.03)*** 0.94.29)*** 0. children had constrained reading performance at the initial assessment in the fall of kindergarten.02)** 0. p ⬍ .16 (0. elementary.17 (0. children evidenced slower average reading growth in the period between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade (T ⫽ ⫺2.00)*** ⫺0.00 (0. p ⬍ . es ⫽ .07 (0. ␤ 60j ⫽ ␥ 600 .00 (0.02) 0.05.04 (0.44 (0..33)*** ⫺0. and in schools with more children reading below grade level in classrooms (T ⫽ ⫺2. ␤ 34j ⫽ ␥ 340 .00 (0.08) ⫺0.10) ⫺1. these characteristics accounted for a larger portion of differences in the rates of children’s monthly reading growth during the periods of interest.02). that much of the SES gap in Table 6 Parameter Estimates and Standard Errors for the School Model Independent variables Intercept K linear slope K–1 linear slope 1–3 linear slope Age at initial assessment Female White SES Home literacy environment Books in home Involvement in school Parental role strain Parental warmth Center-based care Poor readers in classroom Literacy instruction Teacher experience Teacher preparation High-poverty school Private school 0. ␤ 31j ⫽ ␥ 310 . This suggested that although characteristics associated with the school environment accounted for a small portion of SES gaps in children’s initial reading skills.64 (0.101 (0.10 (0.163 (0.06 (0.05) ⫺0.04) Note.55 (0. es ⫽ .06) Time-specific performance 0. between teacher background and student achievement. ␤ 32j ⫽ ␥ 320 .02 (0.43 (0. In these schools. Numbers in parentheses are robust standard errors. *** p ⱕ . ** p ⱕ . however.00) 0. es ⫽ .16 (0.11) 0.19).00 (0. ␤ 24j ⫽ ␥ 240 . not even a negative relation (Goldhaber & Brewer. SES ⫽ socioeconomic status.47 (0. children had higher initial reading scores.15)** 0.00) ⫺0. and neighborhood characteristics for children.07 (0.05. with the largest effect between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade.00)* 0.00 (0.03) ⫺0. In addition. Children in high poverty schools evidenced slower reading growth between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade (T ⫽ ⫺2.13). Early et al.02 (0.05) ⫺0.00) ⫺0.05 (0.01 (0.00) 0.00) ⫺0.08)*** 0.47 (0.04) ⫺0.03) ⫺0.37 (0. * p ⱕ .00 (0.03).44 (0.019 (0. ␤ 25j ⫽ ␥ 250 .01 (0. school. particularly as children mature.00) 0. K ⫽ kindergarten.00) 0. or classroom literacy instruction influenced initial reading scores or monthly reading growth rates beyond children’s anticipated trajectories and demographic and family characteristics (see Table 6).04.66) 1.01 (0. Number of schools ⫽ 939. The slope parameter for the period between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade was reduced by 13%.01) ⫺0.41) 1.00 (0. ␤ 50j ⫽ ␥ 500 .00 (0.01) 0.02 (0.01.21 (0.05)* 0.01) ⫺0.01. researchers have found no relation (see for example. .05)* 0. In other work at prekindergarten. It is important to note. whereas the families appear to do less to account for such gaps.02)*** ⫺0.85)* ⫺0. ␤ 33j ⫽ ␥ 330 . preparation. ␤ 40j ⫽ ␥ 400 . the slope parameter for the period between the spring of first grade and the spring of third grade was 247 not reduced with school variables added.02 (0. Notably. ␤ 30j ⫽ ␥ 300 ⫹ ␥ 301 共BELOW兲 ⫹ ␥ 302 共INSTRUCT兲 ⫹ ␥ 303 共EXPERIENCE兲 ⫹ ␥ 304 共PREPARATION兲 ⫹ ␥ 305 共POVERTY兲 ⫹ ␥ 306 共PRIVATE兲. There was no evidence that teacher experience.001.88 (0. With the addition of school variables. p ⬍ . p ⬍ .02) 0. 2006).25.03 (0.09 (0.37) 0. es ⫽ . and secondary grade levels.00 (0.01)* 0.03 (0.00) ⫺0. The period between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade is the one of the most rapid reading growth for children and the greatest differentiation on demographic.00 (0. the SES-intercept coefficient was reduced by less than 1%.05) ⫺0.03 (0. in private schools (T ⫽ 1.

276. Specifically.46 (56) df 7901 919 . It is important to note that even in the presence of family characteristics.21*** 207. neighborhood. In addition. Yeung. and/or monthly learning rates. family life can be viewed as being strongly associated with the starting point of children’s reading competence. Of notable importance to reading outcomes are social relationships and processes (e.02*** 925 32.55 3. have examined the relation between neighborhood context and reading development of the very young.77 135. First. interventions can reduce the adverse effects of family mediators. parent distress. each of the contexts was associated with SES gaps in initial reading. Accordingly.63*** 920 31. there is a reversal in the relative relation of these settings once children enter school. Gephart.069.. and provision of center-based care prior to kindergarten. the following were all significantly related to reading outcomes: home literacy environment.332.11 (50) Note.184. & Connell. The importance of the experiences within the family context for early reading is hardly surprising because most children had experienced little schooling by the first assessment. parental role strain and warmth. This reinforces the need to focus on characteristics and qualities of family life in preschool children and to widen the emphasis to include schools and neighborhoods as children enter school. they were less associated with differences in gains or lack of progress in children’s reading competence up to third grade. parental role strain).52 3.. Table 7 includes random effects for all models. In the last row.20 157. Conversely. The results of this study underscore the wisdom of programs that direct resources to strengthening family literacy environment. p ⱕ .806. books in home. N ⫽ df ⫹ 1. using a nationally representative sample.99 35. parent distress.AIKENS AND BARBARIN 248 initial reading achievement and in monthly learning rates remains unexplained by the variables included in the model.g. This is consistent with work by others (Aber.001.43 (32) 206. particularly during the period of most rapid reading growth— between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade. Linver. *** School model ␹2 90.28*** 7889 82.537.52 207.00 936 35. For the chi squares.092.976. Few studies.22*** 216. Specifically. & Brooks-Gunn.11 (23) Family model Neighborhood model df Variance ␹2 df Variance ␹2 df Variance 8017 81. and school contexts in accounting for disparities in reading achievement during this time period. from kindergarten to third grade. resources. the numbers in parentheses are parameters. This is a useful finding.91 47. experiences and resources associated with school and neighborhood conditions were understandably less associated with SES differences in initial reading scores but more closely associated with differences in children’s reading skills acquisition rate. the results suggest that the relation between SES and children’s initial reading competence is mediated by home literacy environment. This study provides preliminary evidence that neighborhood context may in fact be related to children’s growth in reading. when considering family context. and reducing parental role strain.057. a special concern was understanding the unique and cumulative role of family. the nature of the child’s interactions with these systems and their effect on the child may change over time. number of books available within the home to the child.. Although family factors were most strongly associated with SES differences in children’s reading competence at the initial assessment. encouraging parental involvement in schools. reading achievement at specific points in time. As Bronfenbrenner (1989) noted. 1997) that recognized the differential effects of environmental contexts across developmental epochs.g. 2002) help explain reading outcomes.170.g. number of books owned. Discussion In the present study. It is important to note that these findings are consistent with the theoretical framework guiding the study—specifically that the relative salience of contexts may shift over time.251. Although it may be difficult to alter family SES quickly enough to make a difference for young children.. Next. This result suggests that both family resource and/or investment models (e. Yeung et al.94 2.35*** 7901 82. with other ecological settings being more strongly associated with children’s reading progress. and relationships associated with the family context were most closely associated with reading gaps at the initial kindergarten assessment.094. neighborhood and school characteristics were associated with children’s reading performance.50 3. 2002) and family process models (e. and receipt of center-based care. not only does the child change over time but the systems with which the child interacts change as well. such that qualities of school and community are associated with differences in reading development to a greater extent than is family life. experiences. if any. Consequently. Brooks-Gunn. parental involvement in the school. community support for the school and poor physical conditions surrounding the school were associ- Table 7 Random Effects for All Models Child model Random effect Levels 1 and 2 variance components intercept (r0) Level 3 variance components intercept (u00) Deviance Variance ␹2 84. we investigated the reading trajectories of children of differing socioeconomic backgrounds. However. Thus.

than is any school factor” (Coleman. Finally. In addition. 1989. in which developmental outcomes are a function of dynamic settings and contexts that interact with one another (Bronfenbrenner. 325). The inability to explain a larger proportion of the SES gap may be a result of the variables selected. as is done in the present analyses. The SES-related differences in reading were stark at the initial kindergarten assessment following children’s entry to school. high-SES children started off as better readers and had more rapid progress than did low-SES children. this work has not focused on the reading achievement of very young children. that is. 2002. Phillips & Chin. the current findings highlight the ecological and systemic nature of development and the fact that resources and experiences across multiple contexts are associated with children’s reading development. nationally representative sample are tempered by the preclusion of other techniques that offer important insights in the contexts affecting children. those designing educational policy to eliminate reading disparities must be aware of the relation of the presence and the concentration of peers with limited skills or fewer economic resources to students’ skills and achievement. The first grade year appears to be a critical time. Future studies should explore in greater detail the nature and the role of neighborhood context on cognitive outcomes and on young children. they are consistent with other work (e. observational techniques or qualitative methods would be especially beneficial in capturing the true nature of children’s contexts. However. previous findings examining teacher effects have been mixed (Early et al.. This difficulty also may be due to the limited measurement and the inherent weaknesses of relying on self-report measures of family practices and environmental conditions. their disad- 249 vantage does not stop there. 2004). the selection of covariates for the growth models was not exhaustive of the ECLS-K dataset or of the set of contextual variables that may be related to reading achievement or SES. The present analyses support the policy that some schools have adopted of dispersing low-SES children across multiple schools so that there is not a high concentration of lowincome children in a single school. contexts produce unique and cumulative influences on reading outcomes and disparities. with the gap growing the most between the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade. and comprehension by skilled readers during this time while the less skilled readers are still struggling with letter-sound combinations. First. For example.g. For example. Others have similarly noted that parents with different educational backgrounds might vary in their ability to provide accurate reports (Dickinson & DeTemple. That is. von Hippel. Analyses by Downey. as the SES gap in reading achievement grew the widest during this period. there are other factors that may be linked to reading achievement and SES that were not explored in the analyses presented here. We also may have underestimated school effects by not partitioning gains by seasons. 2004) have made similar claims that children’s summertime experiences . and classroom literacy instruction were not consistently related to children’s reading outcomes beyond their expected trajectories. Across models. 2004). our analyses also uncovered important phenomena in children’s development of early reading competence. With a few notable exceptions.SOCIOECONOMIC DIFFERENCES IN READING TRAJECTORIES ated with children’s reading. Certainly. It is important to note that this period was associated with the greatest differentiation across children on the basis of demographic characteristics and other ecological factors. Peers were a critical component of school context associated with children’s reading outcomes in the present study. we were able to account for only 17% of the initial SES gap and up to 16% of the growth rate gaps. However. independent of the student’s own social background. 1966. 1996). 1998). The number of children reading below grade and the presence of low-income peers were consistently associated with initial achievement and growth rates. Each of these factors is associated with poorer reading outcomes (Xue & Meisels. a considerable portion of the SES gap remains unexplained by the models presented in the current analyses. p. Exploring the role of various schooling characteristics to reading outcomes and SES disparities in reading is relatively novel. perhaps a more fruitful analysis of school versus nonschool factors would split gains into seasons and examine school learning versus summer learning. Schools may be overwhelmed in trying to serve concentrations of children who require considerable attention and resources. Consistent with the study’s theoretical framework. Thus. rapid accurate decoding. Morever. school. important aspects of teacher– child and parent– child interactions and social characteristics of those environments cannot be fully captured by a large-scale dataset like the ECLS-K. Magnusson & Cairns. 1979. Teachers’ experience. therefore. by examining students’ reading gains across years. and neighborhood characteristics to SES reading. Furthermore. 2006). this policy often works against the cherished notion of neighborhood schools. other variables may better capture contributing factors to the reading achievement gap. Notably. and Broh (2004) suggested that learning during the summer is more variable than is learning during the school year and that summer experiences are more responsible for the achievement gap. Self-reports may be biased and affected by the social desirability of respondents. speak to the importance of grouping and segregation that occurs within schools. Others (see Rothstein. As a consequence. the SES gap in reading between the poorest and the most affluent children grew as children progressed through school. these findings underscore the influence of SES. preparation. across the three time periods. Taken together. The researchers recognize that the advantages associated with using a large. Children from low-SES homes grow up in home environments poor in literacy experiences. 1966) that suggested that “the social composition of the student body is more highly related to achievement. Related to this. Limitations Several limitations mark the present study. Our analyses also suggest a compounding effect of low quality environments. Coleman. In addition to describing the relation between family. The present findings. These children will often enter schools that have a higher proportion of poor children and those with low reading skills (Lee & Burkam. Because school attendance areas correspond to neighborhoods and neighborhoods are often economically segregated. it is more difficult to truly distinguish school effects from nonschool ones. stiff resistance to busing has arisen from parents who are unwilling to pay the price of dislocation necessary to implement these programs. This may be due to the coming together of phonological processing.

J. those involved in policy and intervention must recognize the ecological. Ecology of the family as a context for human development: Research perspectives. Washington DC: U. Duncan. D. L. & Doctoroff. and LoGerfo (2004) found that social stratification occurs during the summer months. (1979). Rather than traditional cross-sectional designs. . Coleman. resources. with higher SES children learning more during these periods. Equality of educational opportunity (ICSPR Study No. which often do not recognize the volatility in family characteristics linked to disadvantage and adversity. Finally. interconnected systems. 517–545. the present study benefits from the comprehensive nature of the ECLS-K data on family and school contexts. AM Statistical Software (Version 0. as Rothstein (2004) argued. Burkam.S. Ecological systems theory. Brooks-Gunn. Ready. T. J. Policies and interventions that fail to recognize such intricacies may not ultimately succeed. MA: Harvard University Press. Bronfenbrenner. Strengths The current study has several strengths. Conclusion The present research suggests that no one solution or effort targeted to any single context will ameliorate the reading achievement gap.. J. The early education of socioeconomically disadvantaged children. F. family functioning exists within a larger context (Bronfenbrenner. L. improvement due to interventions is likely to be short-lived if those involved in the interventions fail to understand the interconnection among systems and the ways in which multiple risks constrain developmental trajectories. the use of a nationally representative sample of children eligible to attend kindergarten in the 1998 –1999 school year greatly benefited the present analyses. as losses and gains that children experience are cumulative across seasons.06. K. J. it may be beneficial to provide support services to reduce the effects of role strain unduly experienced by low-SES parents before children enter formal schooling. the present models suggest that families and characteristics associated with the home environment are most closely associated with SES gaps in children’s reading achievement on entering school. In addition. G. Ultimately. In addition. & Connell. L. 289 –309. and interactions in any single context. 44 – 61). S. instead. (1994). (2003). Lee. & LoGerfo. U.). L. The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design.. particularly before children arrive at kindergarten. Lau. & Costello. parents’ behaviors and beliefs are not independent systems separate from the outside world. 54. J. Like children themselves. Any policy seeking to improve conditions within the family system should seek to produce change in the contexts that families operate within as well. the present data provide a portrait of children from varying socioeconomic backgrounds and from across the nation. (1989). Neighborhood poverty: Vol. Such characteristics add to the external validity of this research. Aber (Eds. New York: Cambridge University Press. and resources are a reflection of the experiences parents face outside of the home. Researchers and policymakers should take care not to locate the source of reading disparities in children and families without also recognizing the constraints on families or the other contexts that may be at work. The data are not limited to low-income children living in urban environments. 6389). D.. U. However. (1998).. Bryant. Sociology of Education. the answer to disparities in reading achievement lies across systems and in the amelioration of the disparate conditions that children and their families experience there. In similar work. M. P.asp Arnold.. Tabors (Eds. (1986). dynamic nature of development and functioning. the current study benefits from the longitudinal nature of the ECLS-K. Dickinson.. & DeTemple. practices. efforts to improve children’s home and family experiences. 22.. & Cohen. To reduce the reading gap. In R. 77. 1–103). Cairns. In J. and economic forces occurring outside of the home. 1–31.). Accordingly. J. Family and classroom correlates of Head Start children’s developmental outcomes. Book reading in preschool classrooms: Is recommended practice common? In D.. Brooks-Gunn. Early Childhood Research Quarterly.. Annals of child development: Six theories of child development: Revised formulations and current issues (pp. American Institutes of Research. 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