Longitudinal Analyses of Achievement Growth and Associated Kindergarten Factors for Subgroups of Children with Mathematics and Reading Difficulties

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The present study used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study - Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999 (ECLS-K) to explore the performance profiles of children with difficulties in mathematics. Two issues were particularly addressed in the present study- the longitudinal manifestation of math difficulties and the differential influence of early predictors on math growth rates and fifth-grade achievement for children with different subtypes of MD. The first issue was investigated by considering the stability and patterns of subgroup change for children with MD, MD-RD, RD, and TA, as well as by examining the math and reading achievement trajectories of children in different achievement subgroups. The second issue was explored by investigating how the identified kindergarten predictors influence progress in learning math and whether the effects of these kindergarten predictors vary among children in different achievement subgroups. Two main findings emerged: (a) children with MD-RD differed from children with MD and children in the comparison groups in the patterns of subtype change over time, math and reading IRT scale scores, and math and reading achievement trajectories; and (b) children's demographic characteristics, learning-related skills, math and reading performance at kindergarten entry, class size, and instructional time were all significantly predictive of their later math achievement and progress. Among the identified kindergarten predictors, only the effects of socioeconomic status and initial math knowledge vary across children in different kindergarten achievement subgroups. Despite some study limitations, the results of the present study add to the knowledge of academic development for children with difficulties in mathematics and have implications on early identification and intervention for this population.