Does grouping matter? A cross-classified random effects model of children's reading growth during the first two years of school

Date of Completion

January 2003


Education, Elementary|Education, Educational Psychology




Prior analyses of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K) data indicate that children enter kindergarten with vastly different reading skills and degrees of school readiness. These differences appear to be related to family and home variables, such as ethnicity, parental education level, and socio-economic status. However, classroom and school characteristics also impact students' academic growth during the elementary school years. ^ This study described the trajectory of first time kindergarteners' reading growth and explored the personal, instructional, and environmental factors that influence students' reading growth during their first two years of school. In addition, several analyses examined the association of ability grouping practices, as well as student and school-level variables, on individual change in early reading skills during this time period. A three level HLM model of reading growth provided estimates of student-level and school-level variables that affect reading growth. Two-level gain score HLM models of reading growth over kindergarten and first grade, and two cross-classified random effects models were utilized to study selected teacher and school characteristics that are hypothesized to be related to reading growth across the first two years of school. ^ Several student level characteristics (including ethnicity, socio-economic status, and kindergarten entry age) and school level characteristics (including the percentage of minority students, the percentage of free lunch students, and the sector of the school) were related to students' reading growth over the first two years of school. The relationship between initial reading ability and reading growth was slightly negative during the school year, but positive during the summer months. The frequency with which teachers report using ability grouping was related to reading growth in kindergarten, but not in first grade. Kindergarten teachers use achievement grouping less frequently than first grade teachers. These findings suggest that achievement grouping may have positive effects for kindergarten students of all ability levels. ^