Janice Decker

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2011


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



School Psychology


School of Education

Committee Chair

Jeffrey A . Miller

Committee Member

Kara E. McGoey

Committee Member

Elizabeth McCallum


Developmental working memory, Early literacy, Early numeracy, Intervention, Kindergarten screening, Patterns of strengths and weaknesses


Brain-based initiatives and school readiness mandates in education have prompted researchers to examine the biological mechanisms associated with learning in the hope that understanding empirical evidence can maximize learning potential. Current research has examined working memory skills in relationship to early learning. The function of working memory is best examined in the context of childhood developmental theory using the framework of Baddeley and Hitch's model. Understanding developmental working memory components in regards to early reading and math skill acquisition is important to designing appropriate interventions. This study represents an initial effort to analyze kindergarten developmental screening results in conjunction with early academic reading and math probes, and may aid in identifying patterns on strengths and weaknesses for future educational planning and intervention. Such information may lead to further development of more specific working memory screening aspects in the kindergarten screening process. One hundred ninety-six kindergarten students ages 4 to 6 from two elementary schools were included in the study sample. Results indicated the correlation of phonemic segmentation skills in kindergarten and short-term auditory memory performance on a kindergarten screening measure is predictable. Despite the effect of socioeconomic status, lower short-term auditory memory performance was associated with lower letter naming fluency, letter sound fluency and phoneme segmentation skills throughout the kindergarten year. The relationship of early numeracy skills in kindergarten and short-term visual memory performance on a kindergarten screening measure is predictable. Although preschool experience has an effect on early numeracy skills, short-term visual memory performance was associated with lower number identification, quantity discrimination and missing number achievement. Additional results indicated that kindergarten screening measures of nonverbal and verbal skills, including short-term auditory and visual memory, successfully predict Response to Intervention and Instruction Tier placement in the Fall semester. These findings suggest that interventions should be implemented as soon as a child enters school in order to maximize progress. Research indicates there is evidence linking developmental working memory skills to early learning but more empirical evidence is needed to support the application of neuroscience principles to school readiness practices, specifically in regards to screening assessments, working memory and early academic performance.