Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Learning and Instruction


Learning & Instruction EdD

First Advisor

Robert Burns

Second Advisor

Patricia Busk

Third Advisor

Helen Maniates


School readiness is a multi-variable construct that includes six classes of variables: (a) cognitive knowledge and skills, (b) social and emotional skills, (c) physical skills and health, (d) family structure and home environment, (e) access to community resources, and (e) early school experiences. The problem with school readiness is that the six classes have been studied separately but never together, which raises the question, what variables make children the most ready to succeed academically in school? Answering this question may help to address the achievement gap because differences in students’ academic achievement can be linked to differences in school readiness. This study examined the relationships between 13 school-readiness variables that were organized into six classes with students’ academic achievement and growth as represented by students’ reading and mathematics assessment scores over 5 years of elementary school (fall kindergarten through spring fourth grade). This study was a secondary analysis of the longitudinal data set ECLS-K:2011, a national probability sample of more than 18,000 U.S. elementary-school students, using hierarchical linear growth modeling (HLM growth modeling). Results indicated that of the six classes of variables the three with the strongest relationship to academic achievement in fall kindergarten were student’s cognitive knowledge and skills, social and emotional skills, and family structure and home environment. Within these three classes, the variables with the strongest influence on reading and mathematics academic achievement in fall kindergarten as well as on academic growth in elementary school in order of importance were kindergarten teachers’ ratings of students’ general academic knowledge, students’ working memory ability, students’ socioeconomic status (SES), students’ cognitive flexibility, and teachers’ ratings of students’ behavior. The academic starting points as measured by reading and mathematics assessment scores in fall kindergarten and the growth rates for each variable as measured by reading and mathematics assessment points in the spring semesters of grades first through fourth are provided in this study. Implications for future research include examining the relationships between students’ general academic knowledge, SES, and working memory. Implications for future practice include providing more feedback to early-childhood educators and elementary school teachers in the form of classroom observations to help them improve their teaching practice. By improving their teaching practice, early-childhood teachers can help their young students achieve greater academic success and preparedness to start elementary school, which in turn can help alleviate the school-readiness gap and ultimately the achievement gap.