METHODS: This longitudinal study with repeated measures utilizes data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). Independent measures of familial capital include (1) cultural capital [measured by home language and child nativity]; (2) human capital [measured by parental education and family SES]; and (3) education capital [measured by child preschool attendance, English language proficiency, and first time kindergartner status]. Dependent measures are represented by standardized reading and math achievement test scores. Via HLM analyses, we examined predictors of academic achievement across time, among 2,840 Latino/a students. Multiple imputation analyses addressed missing data issues. At baseline, 51.2% of the sample was male, mean age 65.5 months.
RESULTS: Level 1 of the HLMs modeled time nested within individuals, and yielded significant improvements in students' reading (t=206.04, p<0.001) and math (t=218.04, p<0.001) achievement across time. Level 2 variables modeled measures of individual and familial capital as predictors. Preschool experience, younger age, family income above poverty threshold, and first-time kindergartener status all predicted higher levels of reading and math achievement four years later (all at p<0.001). Lower levels of reading and math achievement, respectively, were predicted by: limited English proficiency status at school entry (t=-11.61, p<0.001; t=-6.65, p<0.001); curiously, Head Start program participation (t=-5.82, p<0.001; t=-6.76, p<0.001); and non-English home language (t=-3.51, p<0.001; t=-2.77, p<0.01). Level 2 variables accounted for 62% (reading) and 58% (math) of the variation in academic achievement over time.
CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS: Findings demonstrate that at school entry, certain elements of individual and familial social capital resulted in better academic outcomes. Considering immigrant parents highly value a U.S. education for their children as a means of upward mobility, prestige and respect (Zhou & Bankston, 2000), any efforts to address the needs of Latino/a students should include their families. Our findings support the need for preventive intervention strategies that are family-focused, prior to school entry, to strengthen familial social capital, which may then lead to improved school readiness skills and future academic success for Latino/a children. It is imperative that social workers and schools understand the roles that individual and familial social capital plays in the long term academic achievement of Latino/a students.