This study explored heterogeneity in literacy development among 2,300 Hispanic children receiving English as a Second Language (ESL) services at the start of kindergarten. Two research questions guided this work: (1) Do Spanish-speaking English language learners receiving ESL services in the fall of kindergarten demonstrate homogeneous early literacy skills, or are there distinct patterns of achievement across measures of phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, and orthography? and (2) if there are distinct profiles, to what extent do they predict literacy achievement at the end of kindergarten and the beginning of first grade? Using cluster analysis, the authors identified four distinct literacy profiles derived from fall kindergarten measures of phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, and phonetic spelling. These profiles were found to be associated with literacy outcomes in spring of kindergarten and fall of first grade. The two profiles that were associated with greater success on later measures of concept of word in text, letter sound knowledge, word reading, and spelling were the two that included stronger performance on orthographic skills (i.e., alphabet knowledge and phonetic spelling). These findings demonstrated that there is heterogeneity among Hispanic ESL students at kindergarten entry and suggested that literacy instruction must be differentiated from the very beginning in order to meet students' individual needs. The findings also suggested that orthographic skills should be assessed and taught early on. While phonological awareness may be a necessary precursor to reading, phonological awareness in the absence of orthographic skills may not be sufficient.
Early Childhood Education