09 SES 06 A, Findings from International Comparative Achievement Studies: Effects of Age and Grade
Parallel Paper Session
This study aims to contribute to the debate on the impact of the students´ age differences within a grade on academic achievement. Due to the existence of a cutoff date for school entrance, the age difference between the oldest and the youngest pupils in a grade can be as large as 12 months. The literature offers a large amount of research on this topic with various and inconsistent findings. Stipek (2002) in her comprehensive report presents research supporting the advantage of being older for school outcomes which, however, generally tends to decline through the upper grades (Crone and Whitehurst (1999) found this decline as early as at the end of the first grade); research which found no significant differences between older and younger pupils; and even research in which younger students achieved better test results in reading and math. Better test outcomes of older students report McEwan and Shapiro (2008) or Puhani and Weber (2007). Bedard and Dhuey (2006) found that age difference between the youngest and the oldest children in the grade causes initial maturity differences with long-lasting effects. Elder and Lubotsky (2009) present a contrary view claiming that better early school performance of older children is largely driven by the accumulation of skills prior to school attendance and the difference fades away quickly in first school grades. From this point of view, more important than natural maturation is the quality time spent in kindergarten or in similar facilities.
In the present study we focused on age-related differences in reading literacy achievement in more detail. The data analyzed are from first two cycles of PIRLS – PIRLS 2001 and PIRLS 2006. PIRLS – Progress in International Reading Literacy Study assesses the reading literacy of students in the 4th grade. Apart from the overall test score, we investigated a few items from two test blocks (The Little Lump of Clay – literal block and Antarctica – informational block) that were used in both study cycles and released after PIRLS 2006. We chose items covering each of four reading comprehension processes assessed in the study - focus on and retrieve explicitly stated information; make straightforward inferences; interpret and integrate ideas and information; examine and evaluate content, language, and textual elements. Two items belong to Low Benchmark, two items belong to Intermediate Benchmark and four items belong to High Benchmark.
We addressed the following research questions: Is the overall PIRLS score of older students higher than of younger students? Do older students achieve higher scores for both purposes of reading assessed in the study – literal and informational? Do older students achieve higher scores for all the reading comprehension processes assessed in the study? What proportion of older and younger students reach low, intermediate and high benchmark for particular test items? Is the pattern of differences found between older and younger student similar in PIRLS 2001 and PIRLS 2006 and what are the trends?
Bedard, K., Dhuey, E. (2006). The Persistence of Early Childhood Maturity: International Evidence of Long-run Age Effects. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 121(4):1437-1472. Cliffordson, Ch. (2010). Methodological issues in investigations of the relative effects of schooling and age on school performance: the between-grade regression discontinuity design applied to Swedish TIMSS 1995 data. Educational Research and Evaluation 16(1):39-52. Crone, D.A., Whitehurts, G.J. (1999). Age and Schooling Effects on Emergent Literacy and Early Reading Skills. Journal of Educational Psychology 91(4):604-614. Elder, T.E., Lubotsky, D.H. (2009). Kindergarten Entrance Age and Children´s Achievement. Impact of State Policies, Family Background, and Peers. The Journal of Human Resources 44(3):641-683. McEwan, P.J., Shapiro, J.S. (2008). The Benefits of Delayed Primary School Enrollment. Discontinuity Estimates Using Exact Birht Dates. The Journal of Human Resources 43(1):1-29. Mullis, I.V.S., Martin, M.O., Kennedy, A.M, Trong, K.L., Sainsbury, M. (2009). PIRLS 2011 Assessment Framework. TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center, Lynch School of Education, Boston College. ISBN: 1-889938-53-X Puhani, A.P., Weber, A.M. (2007). Does the early bird catch the worm? Instrumental variable estimates of early educational effects of age of school entry in Germany. Empirical Economics 32:359-386. Stipek, D. (2002). At What Age Should Children Enter Kindergarten? A Question for Policy Makers and Parents. Social Policy Report: Giving Child and Youth Development Knowledge Away 16(2):3-16.
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