Executive Function Skills and School Success in Young Children Experiencing Homelessness

Ann S. Masten, Janette E. Herbers, Christopher David Desjardins, J. J. Cutuli, Christopher M. McCormick, Julianna K. Sapienza, Jeffrey D. Long, Philip David Zelazo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


The authors examined the role of executive function (EF) skills as a predictor of kindergarten or first-grade adjustment in 138 children living in shelters for homeless families. During the summer, children completed a battery of six EF tasks and three IQ measures. Teachers later rated children's school adjustment in five domains of achievement and social conduct. Confirmatory factor analysis supported the construct validity of EF as distinct from the general factor in IQ tests. The differential predictive validity of EF scores for school adjustment was tested by hierarchical regression analysis in relation to IQ. Results supported the hypothesis that EF has unique predictive significance for homeless children. Findings also corroborate the feasibility and validity of EF assessments in community settings and contribute to growing evidence that EF skills are important for school success. Implications are discussed for addressing educational disparities for homeless and highly mobile children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-384
Number of pages10
JournalEducational Researcher
Issue number9
StatePublished - Dec 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF; No. 0745643) to Dr. Masten. Preparation of this article also was supported by the 2011/2012 Fesler-Lampert Chair in Urban and Regional Affairs (Masten); the Center on Personalized Prevention Research (NIMH No. P20 MH085987); a graduate fellowship to Mr. Desjardins from the Interdisciplinary Education Sciences (IES) Training Program (No. R305C050059); and predoctoral fellowships awarded to Dr. Cutuli from the Center for Neurobehavioral Development (CNBD), University of Minnesota, and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; No. 5T323MH015755) and to Ms. Sapienza from NSF. The authors are deeply grateful for the support of all the families, teachers, and staff who made this study possible and especially families and collaborators from People Serving People, Mary’s Place, St. Anne’s Place, and the public schools of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and neighboring districts. Any opinions, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this chapter are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF, NIMH, IES, or CNBD.


  • achievement gap
  • at-risk students
  • cognition
  • factor analysis
  • poverty
  • regression analyses
  • urban education


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