sealPurdue News

October 1996

Parents and teachers differ in defining school readiness

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Determining when a child is ready to start kindergarten differs between parents and teachers and from school to school, says the head of the Purdue University Department of Child Development and Family Studies.

"Readiness entails more than a set of skills, knowledge and attitudes that a child brings to school," says Douglas Powell, author of a publication for the American Educational Research Association called "Enabling Young Children to Succeed in School." He says research shows that early childhood programs, schools and families are key influences on school success. Community support for health and physical development and family well-being also are considered important.

Powell says parents tend to view academic skills, like knowing how to count and recite the alphabet, as important prerequisites for entrance to kindergarten -- more so than teachers. For instance, in a study based on a national survey, 59 percent of parents compared to 7 percent of kindergarten teachers thought that it was essential for a child entering kindergarten to be able to count to 20 or more.

Assessment tests also are a poor means of determining school readiness. He says young children are not used to taking tests, they lose interest quickly and can undergo rapid changes in development.

Age also has proven fruitless in predicting later school success. "Research has not identified an ideal age for entering kindergarten, because there is considerable variability in children's development and in the expectations of kindergarten classrooms," Powell says.

Factors that have proven successful in determining the success of a child in school include participation in high-quality early childhood programs; schools that provide diverse rather than homogeneous learning experiences; parents who provide support and proper child-rearing behaviors; and communities where adequate health-care, nutrition and other support services are available.

CONTACT: Powell, (765) 494-9511; e-mail:
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Copies of the 80-page publication are available for $6 from the American Educational Research Association, Publication Sales, at (202) 223-9485.

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