A study published in Educational Researcher looks at the profile of science achievement gaps to the age of 14.
The researchers used data from the US Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999 (ECLS-K), which followed 7,757 children from kindergarten (Year 1) to eighth grade (Year 9). In kindergarten, the children completed a general knowledge test covering the physical, biological, and social sciences. In the following years, there were further assessments of science, reading, and mathematics achievement, as well as approaches to learning and parenting quality.
The findings include:
- Large gaps in science general knowledge were already evident when children entered kindergarten.
- These gaps continued into first grade (Year 2), third grade (Year 4), and ultimately eighth grade.
- Between third and eighth grade, lower reading and mathematics achievement was also predictive of the persistence of these science achievement gaps.
The authors argue that interventions may need to be implemented very early in children’s development to counteract these early general knowledge gaps. Improving reading and mathematics achievement and behavioural self-regulation, and decreasing school racial segregation may also contribute to reducing the science achievement gaps.
Morgan, P. L., Farkas, G., Hillemeier, M. M., & Maczuga, S. (2016). Science achievement gaps begin very early, persist, and are largely explained by modifiable factors. Educational Researcher, 45(1), 18–35.