In any preschool classroom, you are likely to see children who are engaged for long periods of time and children whose attention flits from activity to activity. Just as commmon are children who work on a puzzle or art project until it’s complete, no matter what it takes, and children who give up after a few minutes. Being able to finish tasks benefits young chilren because it allows them to experience success. When children feel successful, they typically want to learn m,ore and make progress. What we now know is that these qualities also serve children well in later life.
According to a study released last summer, attention span persistence is the number one predictor of college complation. Attention span persistence is the ability to pay attention and focus on a task. (For example, a preschooler who can follow recipe cards about making muffins is applying atention span persistence. She follows directions, concentrates on what has to be done, filters out distractions, and completes all required steps.) Children who demonstrated high attention span persistence at age 4 had a 50 percent greater chance of completing college by age 25 than did their counterparts with low attention span persistence.
Dr. Megan McClelland, lead researcher, summarized the study results in an interview: “We are increasingly aware that the first few years of a child’s life can have a profound effect on his or her later success. In our recent study… we found that children who were rated higher by their parents on attention and persistence at age 4 had nearly 50 percent greater odds of getting a bachelor’s degree by age 25…Surprisimg;y, children’s math or reading scores…did not signifivcalntly predict whether or not they completed college. This is compelling evidence that social and behavioral skills such as paying attention, following directions and completing a task, may be even more cruicial to attaining a degree than academic skills.” (Cornelious 2012)
This is an excerpt from NAEYC.org/TYC