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All in a Day’s Work: The Effects of Daily School Experiences on Children’s Executive Function Skills

Research Team


Principal Investigator: Jenna Finch

Funding Information

Funding Agency: American Educational Research Association (AERA)

Award Date: Jan 23, 2023

End Date: Jan 22, 2025


There has been an increased interest in the importance of instructional time for children’s academic achievement following extensive school closures and increased absences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While there is clear evidence that the number of days in school is positively associated with gains in children’s reading and math skills, it is unknown how instructional time affects children’s non-academic skills that are critical for school success. 

This project exploits quasi-random variation in assessment dates in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten cohort of 2010-11 to examine the effects of time in school for student’s executive function skills — a set of cognitive skills that help students regulate their attention and behaviors to pursue goal-directed behavior and are key predictors of students’ academic achievement. 

First, the effects of instructional time on executive function skills development will be examined across kindergarten, first grade and second grade. Second, quantile regression analyses will be used to test whether the effects of instructional time on executive function skills differ across the executive function skills distribution. Finally, mediation analyses will be conducted to explore whether links between instructional time and children’s executive function skills are explained by the quantity and content of math instruction in their classrooms. 

Quantile mediation analyses will be used to test if there is heterogeneity in the mediation effects across the executive function skills distribution. Together, this project provides crucial information on how children’s time in school benefits their executive function skills and illuminates where to best target resources intended to support children’s school success.

Academic Intervention & Learning, Early Education & Development