Effective Systems

Early School Adjustment and High School Dropout


Although school attainment is a cumulative process combining mastery of both academic and behavioral skills, most studies have offered only a piecemeal view of the associations between early childhood capacities and subsequent schooling outcomes. Using two large longitudinal datasets, this study describes the relative contribution of children’s problem behaviors and academic skills to their long-term educational outcomes. After adjusting for family and individual background measures, we find that age 7 or 8 skills and behaviors are modestly and often inconsistently predictive of high school completion, attending college, and completed years of schooling. Neither reading nor math is consistently more predictive of high school completion than the other. Antisocial behavior predicts high school completion, but the associations are consistently significant only after about age 10. In contrast, attention problems do not predict adolescent and early-adult school attainment. We also investigate whether persistently high behavior problems or low achievement during the early elementary years matter for later attainment. We find that persistent reading, math, and antisocial behavior problems, but not attention problems, prior to age 10 predict at least some of our attainment outcomes.