Prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers' perceptions of childhood demographic determinants and academic achievement

Melanie Ellen Boyle, University of Southern Mississippi

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine kindergarten and prekindergarten teachers' perceptions of academic success for children based on the type of care children received prior to beginning kindergarten, as well as other demographics, which could cause variations in academic success. The researcher used a seven section multi-method survey instrument, which included teacher demographic questions, Likert-scale perception questions, and one open-ended question. Sections of inquiry included: Common Core, general academic risk factors for students, barriers to overall academic success, student demographics, and promotion of academic success for students. The survey instrument was distributed to prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers in south Mississippi. Overall analysis of data suggested that teachers believed preschool education did have an effect on the future academic success of children, while contrary to previous literature teachers did not believe that demographics were a true predictor of academic success. Specifically, quantitative analysis revealed significant differences in preschool teachers' perceptions for the best facilities in which to educate their preschool students, and ideas of preparedness of children upon entrance to kindergarten. Descriptive analysis also suggested that both preschool and kindergarten teachers believed kindergarten entrance should be based not only on age alone, but also social, emotional, and intellectual preparedness. Individual scrutiny of each section offered additional data to support prior research and newly published literature. Qualitative analysis supported quantitative results. With regard to academic teachers overall perceptions of early childhood education, teachers noted there were gaps in children's knowledge upon entrance into kindergarten. Teachers' also believed kindergarten should be mandatory, along with funding for preschool, which correlated with recent literature. Falling in line with federal and state officials, south Mississippi teachers believed teacher education and certification is a must. Teachers' perceptions of demographic identifiers contradicted much of prior literature because teachers believed identifiers such as parental marital status, race/ethnicity, and gender were suggestive based on individual households. However, teachers' qualitative responses agreed with literature with regard to teachers needing to be more involved in their children's educational endeavors, and more educated. Also similar to quantitative data, teachers noted that children's education succession should be based on the whole child and not just age.