Instruction, teacher-student relations, and math achievement trajectories in elementary school

Children enter elementary school with widely different skill levels in core subjects. Whether because of differences in aptitude or in preparedness, these initial skill differences often translate into systematic disparities in achievement over time. How can teachers reduce these disparities? Three possibilities are to offer basic skills training, to expose students to higher order instruction, or to provide socioemotional support. Repeated measures analyses of longitudinal data from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development revealed that children with low, average, or high math skills prior to elementary school followed different but parallel trajectories of math achievement up through fifth grade. When enrolled in classes with inference-based instruction, however, the initially least skilled children narrowed the achievement gap as long as they did not have conflictual relations with their teachers. They did not make this kind of progress if they were in classes focused exclusively on basic skills instruction or if they were in inference-focused classes but had conflictual relations with teachers. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)