Investigating the “Gift of Time”: Predictors and Outcomes Associated with Delayed School Entry and Kindergarten Retention



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With increased rigor and accountability standards in elementary school, the kindergarten curriculum has similarly become more demanding. These increased demands have augmented concerns that young children may not be able to cope with the demands of formal schooling. One way to address concerns about school readiness is by altering a child’s academic progression through delayed kindergarten entry or kindergarten retention. Both of these interventions, often referred to as the “gift of time,” are grounded in the assumption that children who are not deemed ready to start formal schooling or progress to the 1st grade will benefit from an extra year to mature or develop grade-appropriate skills. However, there is evidence that delayed entry occurs more often with children from more affluent families, whereas retention occurs more often with disadvantaged children. From an equity standpoint, it is important to understand how interventions used with different groups of children are related to later academic success. Further, it is unclear to what extent these altered progressions are effective for children with disabilities. The purpose of this dissertation was to explore how children who experience an altered kindergarten progression compare to each other as well as their on-time peers throughout elementary school (kindergarten, 3rd grade, and 5th grade) and whether academic outcomes following these varied progressions are moderated by disability status. These questions were answered using a large (n = 26,207), ethnically diverse (57% Latinx, 35% Black, 7% White/Asian/Other) sample of students derived from the Miami School Readiness Project. Multinomial regression analyses were used to compared baseline characteristics of groups of kindergartners (delayed entry, retained, on-time) prior to school entry. Results suggest that both delayed-entry and retained students were younger and had poorer school readiness skills prior to school entry compared to on-time students. Delayed-entry students were more likely to be White compared to both retained and on-time students. A series of regression analyses was conducted to explore performance throughout elementary school. Though delayed-entry and retained students performed better in kindergarten compared to typically progressing students, this advantage did not persist in 3rd and 5th grade. Although students who delayed entry or were retained in kindergarten performed more poorly than their peers later in elementary school, they were less likely to be retained in these later grades. Consistent with prior work, children who experienced altered school progressions were more likely to be identified as having a disability upon entering the school system. However, moderation analyses suggested that the outcomes associated with altering the kindergarten progression were similar between children with and without disabilities. Overall, these results indicate that altering the kindergarten progression does not provide children with long-term achievement benefits.