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Children’s Classroom Engagement and School Readiness Gains in Prekindergarten


  • The NCEDL Multi-State and SWEEP Study of Pre-Kindergarten were conducted by a team of researchers, including Oscar A. Barbarin, Donna M. Bryant, Margaret Burchinal, Richard M. Clifford, Diane M. Early, Carollee Howes, and Robert C. Pianta. This study is supported under the Educational Research and Development Center Program, PR/Award R307A60004, as administered by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education, and endorsement by the federal government should not be assumed. NCEDL is grateful for the help of the many children, parents, teachers, administrators, and field staff who part of this study.

concerning this article should be addressed to Nina C. Chien, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, #0927, La Jolla, CA 92093-0927. Electronic mail may be sent to


Child engagement in prekindergarten classrooms was examined using 2,751 children (mean age = 4.62) enrolled in public prekindergarten programs that were part of the Multi-State Study of Pre-Kindergarten and the State-Wide Early Education Programs Study. Latent class analysis was used to classify children into 4 profiles of classroom engagement: free play, individual instruction, group instruction, and scaffolded learning. Free play children exhibited smaller gains across the prekindergarten year on indicators of language/literacy and mathematics compared to other children. Individual instruction children made greater gains than other children on the Woodcock Johnson Applied Problems. Poor children in the individual instruction profile fared better than nonpoor children in that profile; in all other snapshot profiles, poor children fared worse than nonpoor children.