The relationship between mothers' and teachers'
estimations of 60 children's literacy level and their actual
performance were investigated in two different socio-economic status
(SES) groups: low (LSES) and high (HSES). The children's reading
(fluency, accuracy and comprehension) and spelling levels were measured.
The mothers evaluated their own children and 17 teachers evaluated these
same children in the same domains. HSES children exhibited a higher
actual literacy level than low SES children, and were estimated as
having a higher literacy level by their mothers and teachers.
Mothers' estimations were higher than those of teachers, and
spelling level was estimated as the lowest domain by teachers and
parents. Regression analysis showed that the teachers' estimations
were the most accurate regarding the children's literacy level in
all domains, whereas the mothers' estimations and family SES
partially contributed to the children's actual level. Implications
of these findings are discussed.
Key words: Mothers' estimations, Teachers' estimations,
Literacy level, First grade.
Family and schools are considered to be crucial contexts in which
children's cognitive development is nurtured and supported.
Moreover, it is believed that this development is especially
strengthened by sustained participation of these two contexts.
Children's literacy knowledge, which is an important aspect of this
development, is acquired within a socio-cultural context that includes
knowledge, attributions and behavior in the family and school settings
(Dickenson, McCabe & Anastasopoulos, 2003; Teale, 2003). In this
study we focused on the relationship between knowledge that two key
educational figures, i.e. mothers and teachers, have regarding first
graders' literacy levels. Our goals were to examine the
relationship between teachers' and mothers' estimations of
children's literacy level and their relation to the children's
actual level and to investigate the extent to which this estimation was
related to the children's family socio-economic status (SES) level.
Such an effort might provide theoretical understanding from an
ecological perspective on how socio-cultural contexts (parents/home
compared to teacher/classroom) shape our beliefs and perceptions and
which may later influence our behavior (Okagaki & Strenberg, 1993b).
For example, social class differences may lead to specific differences
in parental beliefs that are also related to child development (Kohn,
1969). It may also lead to practical information in learning about
parents' and teachers' estimation of children's
performance compared to direct assessment, which may contribute to
improving children's literacy skills. For example, parents who tend
to rate their children at a higher level than their actual performance
may not have a firm understanding of early literacy development. Parent
education efforts can therefore be made to support this direction.
Furthermore, indirect teacher estimations may be less time consuming
than direct assessment of children's skills and can be added as a
valid tool to the assessment batteries available for monitoring
Learning to read and write in first grade is one of the greater
challenges that children face during this year both at school and at
home (Perry & Weinstein, 1998; Sameroff & Haith, 1996). The
transition from kindergarten to the formal schooling system is an
important process not only for the children but also for parents. During
the first year at school children systematically acquire the knowledge
of reading as well as writing. This includes reading fluency, reading
accuracy, reading comprehension, and spelling. In the last three decades
more emphases were placed on teaching writing (including spelling) in
parallel to teaching reading beginning in first grade. However, teachers
still tend to view reading as a basic skill with which to begin formal
teaching, whereas they view writing, and especially spelling, as a more
complicated ability (Bereiter & Scardamelia, 1984; Eckhoff, 1983).
Reading fluency plays an important role in theoretical models of
reading acquisition (Wolf & Katzir-Choen, 2001). The verbal
efficiency model suggests, for example, that slow word-processing speed
interferes with automaticity of reading and therefore with comprehension
(Perfetti, 1985). The importance of these aspects of reading (fluency,
accuracy, and comprehension) for the development of competent reading
skills has received more attention from researchers in the last decade
(Thaler, Bener, Wimmer & Landerl, 2004).
During the first year at school many parents, usually the mothers
(Holden, 1997; Levin, Levy-Shiff, Appelbaum-Peled, Katz, Komar, &
Meiran, 1997), engage in literacy activities with their children (Baker,
Fernandez-Fein, Scher, & Williams, 1998; Tudge & Putnam, 1997).
For example, first graders may practice book reading with their parents,
while parents respond to their children's miscues (Evans, Bell,
Man-sell & Shaw, 2001). Parents also support their children's
homework by guiding them in reading and writing (Levin, et al., 1997).
The parents are thus exposed to the children's reading fluency,
accuracy, and comprehension, including spelling skills, and as a result
may monitor their children's performance. We assumed that this
educational process, which is undertaken by parents at home and by
teachers in school, includes an "estimation phase" of the
children's actual knowledge in order to know how to appropriately
guide them towards the next step. This type of assessment was described
by Vygotsky (1978) as part of the work that educators do in order to
meet children's "zone of proximal development." For
example, the parent may be aware that if the child can easily read the
word "cat," he/she may also be able to spell it. The linkage
between estimation and teaching is a crucial issue in educational
processes in all ages and domains, including literacy education for
school beginners. Thus, parents' and teachers' estimations of
children's literacy knowledge in the first grade may play a vital
role in their development.
Children's reading and writing success in the elementary
grades seems crucial since it is a strong predictor of academic
achievements in later years, despite remedial efforts that are usually
made to strengthen the skills of low achievers in later years
(Scarborough, 2001). According to Scarborough (2001), about 65%-75% of
the children who were designated as reading-disabled at elementary age
continue to read poorly throughout their school careers. It would
therefore seem that identifying children at risk for reading and writing
disabilities before acquiring formal reading and as soon as they start
school is crucial so that steps can be taken to prevent their future
academic difficulties. This practice is usually carried out informally
by many parents and teachers and is called "estimation." When
this process is carried out by teachers or literacy experts (from the
outside school system) as a more formal procedure of collecting and
analyzing data to improve educational programs, it is usually referred
to as "evaluation" or "assessment." In our study we
refer more to the informal act of this procedure, i.e. the estimation.
Interestingly, parents' estimations are sometimes considered
to be more predictive of children's development than objective
measures of children's achievements (Eccles, 1983; Entwisle &
Baker, 1983). Research results indicated correlations between
children's performances and the accuracy of their mothers'
predictions, i.e. the more accurate the mother's judgment of her
child's functioning, the higher the child's performance. These
results are regarded as indicating that mothers who inaccurately
estimate what their children can (or cannot) do fail to provide suitable
support for the child compared to more accurate mothers (Colter &
Shoemaker, 1969; Delago-Hachey, 1984; Miller, 1986). However, evidence
for the "match" hypothesis is not consistent. For example,
Sattler, Feldman and Bohanan (1985) found no relationship between
children's language ability as measured by the PPVT and their
mothers' estimations. Parents' accuracy in estimating their
children's academic functioning is important for all parents and
children. However, it is an especially vital issue for LSES children who
are prone to academic failure (Douglas, 2000; Snow, Burns & Griffin,
1998; Whitehurst & Longian, 1998). Attacking this problem through
parents' estimations, as part of a wider cultural system that
influences estimations, behaviors, and achievements might serve to
illuminate concerns about the success of LSES children in school.
Stevenson, Chen, & Uttal (1990), for example, studied white, black
and Hispanic mothers and their elementary school children and found a
significant and positive relationship between mothers' ratings of
their children's abilities in reading and mathematics and the
children's actual achievements in all three groups: white
([r.bar]=.43), black (r=.34), and Hispanic (r=.30). The mothers'
mean years of education in the three ethnic groups were: white (M=13.8),
black (M=12.8) and Hispanic (M=9.8). Martin and Johnson (1992) also
found no correlation between the mothers' education level (an
important factor in defining a SES group) and their accuracy in
estimating their children's functioning. These finding suggest that
mothers with a low education level can be as accurate in estimating
their children's academic level as mothers with a high education
Little evidence is available on parents' estimations of
children's literacy levels, including during the important stage of
entering formal schooling. In a recent study in Israel it was found
that, contrary to expectations, no differences existed between mothers
with low education (between 8-12 school years) and those with high
education (between 15 to 18 school years and more) in their accuracy of
estimating their children's emergent literacy level (Authors, in
press). These findings are important, since it would be expected that
less educated parents, usually from the LSES group, would be inaccurate
in their attributions of their children's knowledge in different
domains, including literacy. More studies are needed to untangle the
question of the "match hypothesis," especially regarding
children from different SES communities.
The teacher is an important and obvious source of information for
parents regarding their children's development and achievements.
Parents of school children, especially in the elementary grades, tend to
be in close contact with teachers (Epstein & Dauber, 1991; Stevenson
& Baker, 1987). This contact includes formal (e.g., parent-teacher
conference, report cards) and informal communication (e.g., conversation
when parents pick up their children from school, or in other school
events). This contact enables parents to become acquainted with the
teachers' estimation of the children's abilities in different
areas, including reading and writing.
The relation between mothers' and teachers' estimations
of children's functioning are important when trying to understand
how "educational experiences within and outside the family system
are mediated" (Martin & Johnson, 1992, p. 95). It is assumed
that congruence between the attributions of mothers and teachers, the
most meaningful figures in young children's cognitive development,
is important for the children's development. Incongruence between
parents and teachers may cause children to receive inconsistent messages
from the critical adults in their lives who evaluate their behavior.
This could be confusing for children and therefore not supportive of
their learning experiences. For example, children had significantly
higher averages in school when their mothers and teachers were
relatively highly congruent than when they were relatively low in
congruence (Peet, Powell & O'Donell, 1997). However, many
researchers reported that mothers generally hold more optimistic views
about their children than teachers and often overestimate their
functioning (Hiebert & Adams, 1987; Martin & Johnson, 1992;
Stevenson, et al 1990) or other objective measures (Hunt &
Paraskevopoulos, 1980; Miller, 1986). This phenomenon might be explained
by the different settings in which parents and teachers act (home and
school) (Winetsky, 1978) and by the more "objective" point of
view that teachers might have regarding the children.
The accuracy of teachers' and mothers' estimations of
children's actual reading and writing levels and their relation to
family SES level is interesting and important. LSES parents are expected
to be less accurate regarding their first-grade children's
knowledge of reading and writing than HSES parents since they lack the
educational level to carry out this estimation. Teachers might
underestimate them due to their underestimation of children from LSES
families (Stahl, 1991). For example, Scott and Teddlie (1987) reported
that 250 teachers from 75 schools which evaluated their third-grade
students tended to rely more on the children's SES level than on
their actual knowledge. Similar findings were reported by David (1983).
The present research focused on the following factors: Israeli
mothers' and teachers' estimations regarding the same first
graders' literacy functioning, the children's
"objective" performance in these skills and the mothers'
SES level. These variables have not received adequate attention in
Almost all previous researchers of parents' or teachers'
estimations focused on children's mathematics achievements. Few
studies have investigated the domains of literacy. Two studies reported
that parental estimations were related to children's objective
measures in letter names and emergent writing (Aram & Bastaker, in
press; Hiebert & Adams, 1981), including phonological awareness
(Aram & Bastaker, in press). Another study reported that parents of
language-impaired children rated their children more poorly in early
literacy knowledge (phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, etc.)
than parents of typically developing children (Boudreau, 2005).
This issue was explored further in the current research by
examining children's literacy in the first grade and included
teachers' estimations and the estimations of mothers from two (low
and high) SES groups.
More specifically, the goals of this study were to examine: (a) the
relationship between teachers' and mothers' estimations of
children's literacy level (independent variable), (b) its relation
to the children's actual level (dependent variable) and (c) the
extent to which this estimation is related to the children's family
SES level (independent variable). Four hypotheses were proposed: (1) Low
SES children will be estimated with a lower literacy level than high SES
children; (2) The mothers' estimations will be higher than those of
the teachers; (3) Estimation will be lower regarding spelling than
reading; (4) The family SES, the teachers' estimations, and the
mothers' estimations will contribute to the children's actual
literacy level and the extent of the contribution will be in this order.
A total of 60 5-6-years-old children, 30 girls (LSES, n=15; HSES,
n=15) and 30 boys (HSES, n=15; LSES, n=15) and their mothers
participated in this study. They were recruited from 17 schools located
in urban neighborhoods of the greater Tel-Aviv area, Israel. The
criteria of low and high SES neighborhoods were based on the list of the
Israel Central Bureau of Statistics report (1995).
Nine of the 17 schools were situated in HSES neighborhoods and 8 in
LSES neighborhoods. Simple random sampling was used. In each school,
participants were solicited by letters sent to parents. The letter from
the researchers was distributed via the school and included information
on the aim of the study (learning about children's academic
development) as well as the importance of the study. Mothers who gave
their consent participated in the study with their children. We stopped
recruiting after obtaining the consent of 30 parents in each SES group.
Three or four children from each school (studying in the same home
class) participated in the study. All children came from Jewish
Hebrew-speaking homes. The families were given a children's book as
compensation for their participation.
Table 1 presents the demographic characteristics of the two SES
groups that participated in the study.
The table shows that the fathers' education level and the
mothers' and fathers' professional levels are significantly
higher in the HSES than in the LSES group. These advantages also appear
in the family income.
Children's literacy level. Children's literacy level was
assessed by three measures: reading, reading comprehension, and
spelling. All inter-rater reliabilities in this study were calculated by
two graduate students. They were all trained by the principle researcher
of this study.
Reading. Reading was measured using two tests. The first test
measured accuracy and fluency of reading of a short story called
"Where is Amir's turtle?" (Shalom & Vohll, 1996). The
story has 67 words with no drawings or graphical cues. It includes all
the letters and vowels of the Hebrew script. Accuracy of reading was
measured according to success in the number of word readings (range
0-67). Fluency was measured by counting the number of words read in 1
minute. Inter-rater reliability measured by Cohen's kappa was k =
.98 (p<.001) for this measure. The second test measured the accuracy
and fluency of 12 regular words and 12 pseudo-words. The words consisted
of two syllables. Accuracy of reading was measured according to the
success in word reading (range 0-24). Inter-rater reliability measured
by Cohen's kappa was k=.88 (p<.001) for this measure.
All measures were converted to percentages and a 0-100 score was
created for the reading level. The mean score of the reading measure was
M=77.90, SD=17.79 and Cronbach's alpha was.80.
Reading comprehension. Reading comprehension was measured using two
tests. The first test measured the comprehension of the above-mentioned
story, "Where is Amir's turtle?" After completing the
vocal reading the child was asked four open questions related to the
main story line. Two questions were more factual and two were
inferential. Inter-rater reliability measured by Cohen's kappa was
k=.81 (p<.001) for this measure. The kappa measure for two
judges' reliability was.81<.001.
The second reading comprehension test was a standard
multiple-choice test for Hebrew speaking children (Ortar, 1976). The
children were tested in 7 out of the 21 items which are suitable for
first graders. The level of comprehension goes from the easy to the more
difficult items, i.e. from reading words to sentence to small texts
(range 0-7). All measures were converted to percentages and a 0-100
score for reading comprehension was created. The mean score of the
reading measure was M=62.43, SD=17.43 and Cronbach's alpha was.68.
Spelling. The spelling test included 20 Hebrew words which
represent orthographic knowledge and root written knowledge (Levin &
Aram, in preparation). The score was based on the percentage of letters
written correctly out of the entire 20 words. Inter-rater reliability
measured by Cohen's kappa was k=.86 (p<.001) for this measure.
The mean score of the spelling measure was M=74.34, SD=11.96 and
Cronbach's alpha was.70.
The mothers were asked for information about their family's
current SES, including their and the father's education level
(number of school years), profession, and the family's income
level. The data provided by the mothers was transformed to a 5-point
scale (from l = low to 5 = high). The parental education scale ranged
from 1 = 6 years of schooling or less to 5=20 years of schooling or
more. The professional qualification and current occupation scale ranged
from l = unskilled workers and menial industrial laborer to 5 = higher
executives and major professionals. The family's income level was
based on the mother's ranking of the family income compared to the
established average in Israel during the research period (this
information was given to the mothers). The mothers' rankings ranged
from l = much below the national average to 5 = much above the national
Mothers' and teachers' estimation questionnaire
The mothers (n = 60) and the teachers (n = 17) were asked to
estimate the children's literacy level compared to the
children's classmates in three domains: reading, reading
comprehension, and spelling, on a 5-point scale representing 6%, 22%,
44%, 22% and 6% of the children from the lowest to the highest rank,
respectively. When making their estimations on the 5-point scale, the
mothers were asked to consider such a distribution and to place their
children in one of the five categories in each domain. The questionnaire
included 4 representative items from the tests which we gave to the
children in each of the three domains. For example, for reading accuracy
one item referred to story-reading accuracy, one to story-reading
fluency, one to the accuracy of word reading, and one to the accuracy of
reading pseudo-words. For example, "if we will present a short
story to your child, how would you rank her/his accuracy of reading the
story compared to his/her classmates: among the best readers in class,
among moderate to high readers, among the moderate readers, etc."
This 5-point assessment scale was used to standardize the
estimation measure used by the mothers and the teachers and to minimize
biases between and within these two groups. Since teachers of lower
grades are known to sometimes give poorer students higher grades in
order to encourage them, our assessment scale was also intended to avoid
the occurrence of such biases in the teachers' estimations (see
Levin et al., 1997). According Levin et al. (1997), who used this scale
for teachers' attributions of first graders in reading, mathematics
and homework, Cronbach's alpha for these three measures was.82.
Positive and significant correlations (r = .60, p<.001) were reported
between the teachers' attributions in this scale in first grade and
the teacher's attributions of the same children in the third grade.
Data were collected in three sessions. In the first session the
children's literacy level was investigated individually in their
schools. In the second session, an interview was held in which the
mothers' demographic information was collected as well as their
attributions of their children's literacy (reading, reading
comprehension, and spelling) on a 5-point scale. In the third session,
the same 5-point scale used to estimate the mothers' appraisal of
their children's literacy level was administered to the 17 teachers
of the classes that participated in this research. Each teacher assessed
the 3 or 4 children in her class who participated in the study. Each
child was thus assessed by mother and teacher.
Four hypotheses were proposed: (1) Low SES children will be
estimated with a lower literacy level than high SES children; (2) the
mothers' estimations will be higher than those of the teachers; (3)
estimation will be lower regarding spelling than reading; (4) the family
SES, the teachers' estimations and the mothers' estimations
will contribute to the children's actual literacy level and the
extent of the contribution will be in this order.
Data regarding the children's actual literacy level are
presented first. This is followed by more detailed statistics to meet
our hypotheses on the relationships between the mothers' and the
teachers' estimations of the children's literacy, and on the
contribution of the family SES, the teachers' estimations, and the
mother's estimations of the children's reading and spelling
Children's actual level
Table 2 presents the general score of the children's actual
level, and the mothers' and teachers' estimations according to
the SES group.
According to this table, children in the HSES group exhibited a
higher actual literacy level than those from the low SES in all
investigated domains. Relationships between the mothers' and the
teachers' estimations of the children's literacy level
according to SES group are presented in Table 3.
A 3-way repeated-measures ANOVA of 2 (SES: high vs. low) x 3 (type
of score: mothers', teachers' estimations and domain) x 3
(domain of estimation: reading fluency, reading accuracy reading
comprehension, and spelling) indicated a main effect for SES (F (l, 54)
= 4.12, [[eta].sup.2] = 0.7, p<.05). The children's literacy
estimations were higher (M = 4.16, SD = 0.12) in the HSES than in the
LSES group (M = 3.80, SD = 0.12). A main effect was also found for
estimator (F (l, 54) = 13.38, [[eta].sup.2] =.19, p<.001). The
mothers' estimations (M = 4.12, SD = 0.80) were higher than the
children's actual scores (M = 3.84, SD = 0.10). A main effect of
differences was also found between domains of estimation (F (3, 54) =
41.06, [[eta].sup.2] =.43, p<.00l). Spelling (M = 3.43, SD = 0.11)
was estimated as the lowest domain compared to fluency of reading (M =
4.01, SD = 0.11), accuracy (M = 4.09, SD = 0.10) and reading
comprehension (M = 3.39, SD = 0.07). Furthermore, reading comprehension
(M = 4.39, SD = 0.07) was estimated higher than reading fluency (M =
4.01, SD = 0.11) and accuracy (M = 4.09, SD = 0.10). Interaction was
found between estimator and domain (F (3, 54) = 2.74, [[eta].sup.2] =
0.4, p<.04). Similarly to the above, the teachers and mothers
(separately) estimated spelling lower than all other domains and reading
comprehension as higher than fluency and accuracy of reading. The
teachers estimated spelling (M=3.17, SD=0.14) lower than the
mothers' estimations (M=3.70, SD=0.12).
These results are in agreement with our hypotheses, i.e. low SES
children were estimated with a lower literacy level than high SES
children and the mothers' estimations were higher than those of the
teachers. In accordance with our assumption, spelling was estimated by
both educators as the most difficult skill compared to all other
We performed a hierarchical regression analysis in order to explore
the possible contribution of the family's SES, the teachers'
estimations, and the mothers' estimations to the children's
literacy level in each domain, entering SES as the first predictor, the
teachers' and mothers' estimations as the second, and the
interaction between these independent variables third. The variables
were used in z scores in order to avoid multicollinearity problems
(Aiken & West, 1991). The results of this analysis are presented in
Table 4 shows that family SES explained 13% of the child's
reading fluency and the teachers' estimations explained 34% beyond
the SES. The mothers' estimations added another 13% to this
explanation beyond the former variables. Interaction appeared between
teachers and SES (F (3, 48) = 3.26, p<.02). We calculated the
regression lines of the teachers' estimations for low and high SES
in order to examine the source of interaction between the teachers'
estimations and SES on the children's reading fluency. Figure 1
presents the results.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
This figure shows that no correlation appeared between
teachers' estimations and reading fluency (b = -14.38) for the HSES
group, while a negative correlation was found for the LSES group (b =
-60.6). The higher the teachers' estimations, the lower the
children's actual reading fluency.
Table 4 shows that regarding reading accuracy, family SES explained
10% of the children's reading accuracy while the teachers'
estimations explained 21% beyond SES. The mothers' estimations
added another 16% to this explanation beyond the former variables.
Interaction appeared between teachers' estimations and SES (F (3,
49) = 5.03, p<.004). We calculated the regression lines of this
interaction in order to examine the source of interaction between the
teachers' estimations and SES on the children's reading
accuracy. Figure 2 presents the results.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
This figure shows that no correlation appeared between the
teachers' estimations and the children's reading accuracy for
the HSES group (b = -2.01), while a positive correlation was found in
the LSES group (b = 11.09) between the teachers' estimations and
the children's actual reading accuracy. Table 4 also shows that
only the teachers' estimations contributed significantly (31%) to
the variance of reading comprehension, whereas family SES and the
mothers' estimations made no contribution to this skill.
Table 4 indicates that for spelling, the teachers' estimations
contributed significantly (30%) to this skill, whereas the mothers'
estimations added 10% beyond this estimation. Family SES made no
contribution. Interaction appeared between the teachers'
estimations and the mothers' estimations (F (3, 49) = 2.90,
We plotted the regression lines of the teachers' low
estimations (1 standard deviation below the mean score) and the
mothers' high estimations (1 standard deviation above the mean
score) in order to examine the source of interaction between the
teachers' and the mothers' estimations for spelling. Figure 3
presents the results.
[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]
Figure 3 shows that there is no correlation between the
teachers' estimations and the children's level for high
mothers' estimations of their children's spelling (b=2.50),
whereas there are positive and higher correlations between the
mothers' estimations and the children's spelling level for low
mothers' estimations (b=9.92).
In this research we investigated the relationship between
mothers' and teachers' estimations and children's
literacy level among Israeli first graders from two different SES
communities. Our main findings indicated that the LSES children's
actual scores in reading and writing are lower than those of the HSES
children. Accordingly, they were estimated with a lower literacy level.
The mothers' estimations were higher than those of the teachers,
and the estimations of both the teachers and the mothers were lower
regarding spelling than all other skills. Furthermore, the
teachers' estimations were the most accurate regarding all
children's literacy skills. This was followed by partial accuracy
of mothers and partial contribution of the children's family SES.
In accordance with the vast literature (Bowey, 1995; Feitelson
& Goldstein, 1986; Lonigan, Burgess, Anthony & Baker, 1998;
Reese, 1995), the children from the HSES group exhibited higher scores
in literacy levels than those from the LSES group. The data show that
mothers and teachers are aware of the children's level. Therefore,
both mothers and teachers gave a higher estimation of the HSES
children's level than of LSES children. These results, which were
found in first graders, support similar earlier evidence found in
Israeli kindergarten children (Authors, 2003; 2008). This might imply
that mothers and teachers are, in general, aware of the children's
early literacy levels, a domain which has not yet been studied formally
As expected, the mothers' estimations were higher than those
of the teachers. These findings are in agreement with the literature
which presents mothers' tendencies to overestimate their
children's cognitive abilities in different domains (Martin &
Johnson, 1992; Stevenson, et al., 1990), including the domain of
emergent literacy (Hiebert & Adams, 1987(. Teachers'
estimations are usually regarded as professional and close to objective
measures. A psychological explanation for parents' optimistic
estimations has already been presented in the literature. This
explanation suggests that parents perceive their children's
achievements as their own personal success (Hunt & Paraskevopoulos,
1980; Miller, 1986). The overestimation found in the teachers'
estimations might also stem from a tendency to attribute the
children's success to the kindergarten program and their own
The estimation of teachers as well of mothers was lower regarding
spelling than all other skills. This result supports our assumption that
although teachers and parents of first graders of today are involved in
teaching writing more than previously (this is true at least for
Israel), and although it is thought that both skills, i.e. reading and
writing, contribute to each other (Ehri, 1997; Morris & Perney,
1984), spelling is still estimated as a more difficult skill for
children than reading. It is possible that parents and teachers of first
graders perceive the children's non-formal spelling form as a type
of difficulty and less as a long developmental path. Formal spelling
does indeed require letter-sound correspondence, phonological and
morphological awareness, and of course knowledge of the grammatical
rules and their exceptions. All these abilities have their own
developmental trends and it sometime takes several years of schooling,
at least regarding Hebrew spelling (see Ravid, 2004). Nonetheless, other
skills, such as reading comprehension, could also be perceived as the
most difficult ability, and not especially spelling. Thus, more in depth
research is necessary in order to elucidate why teachers and mothers of
school beginners perceive children's spelling skills as more
difficult than other literacy abilities, and why this more traditional
thought is maintained.
One of our important findings was that teachers were the most
accurate regarding all children's literacy skills measured in our
study, but that mothers were also accurate regarding their
children's reading and spelling. We also found that the
children's family SES level makes its own contribution to their
fluency and accuracy of reading. Teachers' accuracy is not
surprising evidence, since this is their profession. Indeed, our data
show that outside school objective professional assessments correlate
well with teachers' estimations. From the educational perspective,
this might indicate that teacher ratings, which are less time-consuming
than direct assessment of children's skills, may also be very
useful and may be added as a valid tool to the children's progress
monitoring assessment batteries. Interestingly, mothers were accurate
regarding their children's reading accuracy and spelling level. It
is possible that first graders' habit of reading books to their
parents while their parents listen to them and work on their miscues
(Evans, et al. 2001), which is supportive of the children's
homework, often takes place with mothers (Levin et al, 1997) and that
this contributed to the mothers' knowledge. Mothers were less
accurate, however, regarding their children's reading fluency and
text comprehension. These results are important, taking into account
what parents know and do not know about their children's literacy
abilities and what can be done about it by the education system.
Family SES predicted reading fluency and accuracy. This means that
the higher the children's family SES, the higher their predicted
fluency and accuracy of reading. These basic skills (compared to
spelling and reading comprehension which appear more complicated) might
be related to the intensive book reading to which HSES children are
exposed during their early years by their parents compared to the
limited exposure of LSES children (Bus, van Ijzendoorn & Pellegrini,
1995; Scarborough & Dobrich). In Israel for example, HSES parents
report reading a story book to their children 3 to 4 times a week,
compared to only once a week in the LSES group (Authors, 2008).
It is important to note that this study has some limitations, and
caution should be exercised when interpreting the findings. First, since
the data presented in this paper are correlational in nature, readers
should exert caution not to infer causal relationships found between
variables. Second, replications with larger samples and with
participants from different languages and cultures should be carried out
to further establish the main findings concerning educators'
estimations of early literacy.
In conclusion, this study indicates that teachers, parents and SES
group could serve as a good estimation for children's success in
reading and writing in first grade, with the teachers' estimation
being the most accurate. Two major pedagogical implications can be drawn
from these findings. First, as noted before, teacher estmations that are
usually less time consuming than direct assessment of the
children's reading and spelling levels can serve as practical and
useful information in supporting children in the teaching process as
more formal valid assessment tools. Second, that parents do have an idea
about their children's literacy level but might need more
information from the school system, and especially from teachers. This
information is important for building mutual knowledge of teachers and
parents on the children's abilities, which might be more effective
in supporting the school beginner.
Estimation is only a first step in the process and an interaction
between the teacher and the child following the estimation may be the
more critical step in the teaching model. Educators from different
communities (high and low SES) attribute higher abilities to the young
children. However, they may act in a different way following this
knowledge. These relations between the educators' estimations,
their teaching behavior following the estimation, and the
children's actual early literacy level are important and should be
the focus of future studies.
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Table 1 Characteristics of the low and high SES groups (N=60)
LSES HSES t
(N = 30) (N =30)
MD SD M SD
Mother 2.39 0.88 4.33 0.76 9.00 ***
Father 2.04 0.85 3.93 0.90 8.00 ***
Mothers 2.93 1.18 4.50 1.23 4.96 ***
fathers 2.96 0.98 4.82 0.48 8.90 ***
Family Income 2.96 0.96 3.80 0.76 3.68 ***
Note: *** p<.001
(a) Range of level is 1-5
Table 2 Children's literacy level in the low and high SES groups
LSES HSES t
(N = (N = 30)
M SD M SD
Reading fluency 164.06 122.70 88.38 39.60 322 **
Reading accuracy 107.32 26.35 120.09 6.74 2.58 *
Reading 58.63 19.80 66.22 13.97 1.72 *
Spelling 72.19 11.42 76.49 12.28 1.40 *
* p<.07 * p<.01, ** p<.001.
Table 3 The mothers' and the teachers' estimations of the
children's literacy level by SES group (N=60)
Literacy Estimation (a) LSES HSES
Mothers Teachers Mothers Teachers
Reading fluency M 4.04 3.63 4.21 4.17
SD 0.80 1.07 0.90 0.88
Reading accuracy M 4.07 3.74 4.28 4.28
SD 0.82 0.90 0.80 0.92
Reading comprehension M 4.33 4.03 4.70 4.51
SD 0.63 0.87 0.45 0.73
Spelling M 3.60 3.00 3.80 3.34
SD 0.84 1.77 0.97 1.04
(a) Range of level is 1-5
Table 4 Summary of hierarchical regression analysis for
variables predicting children's general and specific emergent
literacy (EL) levels across SES (N=90)
Variable B SE [beta] t R2 [DELTA] R2
Step 1 .13 .13 **
SES -61.80 21.79 -.36 2.84
Step 2 .47 .34 ***
SES -34.54 18.06 -.20 1.90
Teachers' -48.60 11.49 -.56 4.22
Mothers' -5.95 11.56 -.07 .52
SES -42.30 17.17 -0.25 2.46
Teachers' -60.60 13.62 -0.70 4.45
Mothers' -5.84 15.80 -0.07 0.37
SESX 46.22 22.96 0.34 2.01
SESX -10.59 22.60 -0.09 0.47
Teachers' 17.10 10.46 0.17 1.64
Step 1 .10 .10 *
SES 10.50 4.28 .32 2.45
Step 2 .32 .22 **
SES 6.40 3.98 .19 1.61
Teachers' 6.08 2.59 .36 2.35*
Mothers' 2.65 2.46 .16 1.08
Step 3 (Reading
SES 8.04 3.65 .24 2.21 *
Teachers' 11.09 3.28 .66 3.38 **
Mothers' .48 3.18 .03 .15
SESX -13.10 4.77 -.56 2.75 **
SESX 3.92 4.77 .17 .82
Teachers' -5.04 2.11 -.29 2.39 *
Step 1 .04 .04
SES 7.27 4.63 .21 1.57
Step 2 .35 .31
SES -.12 4.16 -.003 .03
Teachers' 6.16 2.27 .35 2.71 **
Mothers' 6.46 2.52 .34 2.56*
Step 3 .37 .02
SES .74 4.35 .02 .17
Teachers' 4.50 3.04 .26 1.48
Mothers' .52 5.82 .02 .09
SESX 2.15 4.86 .08 .44
SESX .52 5.82 .02 .09
Teachers' -2.80 2.80 -.14 1.00
Step 1 .06 .06
SES 5.08 2.75 .24 1.85
Step 2 .36 .30 ***
SES 3.24 2.35 .16 1.38
Teachers' 4.27 1.32 .41 3.23**
Mothers' 2.32 1.31 .22 1.77
Step 3 .45 .10 *
SES 3.94 2.25 .19 1.75
Teachers' 6.21 1.72 .60 3.60**
Mothers' .85 1.97 .08 .43
SESX -2.19 2.54 -.14 .86
SESX 2.20 2.55 .16 .87
Teachers' -3.71 1.38 -.30 2.69**
* p<.05. ** p<.01. ***p< 001.