Patterns of Hispanic Students' Math Skill Proficiency in the Early Elementary Grades

  • Reardon S
  • Galindo C
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In this article, we describe patterns of Hispanic students’math skill development during elementary school using data from a nationally representative sample of Hispanic students assessed in math skills from kindergarten through 5th grade. Several robust patterns are evident. First, Hispanic students enter kindergarten with average math skills significantly lower than those of native-born, non-Hispanic White students, and similar to those of native-born non-Hispanic Black students. Second, Hispanic–White math proficiency gaps narrow from the start of kindergarten through 5th grade but do not disappear. Third, there is considerable variation in average math skills among Hispanic population subgroups, with recent immigrants and lowersocioeconomic groups (Mexican and Central American students, particularly) exhibiting the lowest levels of math skill through elementary school. Fourth, a simple measure of family socioeco- nomic status accounts for most of the Hispanic–White gaps that remain by 5th grade. Fifth, Hispanic students with the least English exposure and proficiency in kindergarten have considerably lower math proficiency rates at the start of kindergarten than English-proficient Hispanic students and students from homes where English is spo- ken. However, students from non-English-speaking homes and students who are not proficient in spoken English at the start of kindergarten also exhibit more rapid gains in math skills during elementary school than do English-proficient Hispanic students and students from homes where English is spoken.

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  • Sean F. Reardon

  • Claudia Galindo

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