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Citation:Mantzicopoulos, P. (2003). Flunking Kindergarten after Head Start: An inquiry into the contribution of contextual and individual variables. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(2), 268-278.

The purpose of this study is to examine the extent to which nonpromotion to first grade after kindergarten can be predicted from information about school and family contexts and childrenÕs individual characteristics. The author questions why some Head Start children are retained in elementary school while others are promoted and looks for identifying characteristics that predict early school failure under conditions of disadvantage. Parental involvement, estimates of childrenÕs school adjustment, and satisfaction with school programs were predictive of risk for nonpromotion, as were academic achievement and social adjustment indicators. Findings show that promoted children had higher achievement scores and were rated by their teachers as better behaved and more socially competent. Head Start children were less likely to be retained in public schools that provided educational and family services intended to support school transition and in schools that emphasized collaboration across grade levels, valued family-school connections, and attempted to meet childrenÕs needs through flexible and appropriate practices. The study examined demographic data and school competence indicators (academic achievement as well as teacher-rated social-behavioral competence) from a Midwestern public school district. Interviews were conducted with parents about patterns of school involvement, satisfaction with school programs, and estimates of the childÕs adjustment to school. The three intervention schools, consisting of a sample of 53 children who were labeled not ready for first grade and were placed in the prefirst-grade program after kindergarten, implemented a transition demonstration. Two comparison schools provided data for 208 promoted students. Since these groups were not randomly assigned, the study cannot show an empirical relationship between nonpromotion and the family-school connection. This study can be useful in investigating the importance of considering both school and family contextual factors in early success in public schools.

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