James Kitchin

Participant: PROMISE AGEP Research Symposium


James Kitchin

Department: Public Policy

Institution: University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC)



Understanding the Racial-based Kindergarten Science Gaps

F. Chris Curran, PhD, James Kitchin (presenting author)

As part of a growing body of literature on race-based education gaps, Curran and Kellog (2016) show that racial minorities display achievement gaps in science test scores in kindergarten. This paper represents one of the first attempts to understand what accounts for these kindergarten science gaps. We use data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten class of 2010-2011 (ECLS-K:2011) to explore this line of inquiry. We run one model in which the dependent variable is the difference between an individual’s standardized science and English achievement scores and another in which it is the difference between the standardized science and math achievement scores. We first run each model with the only independent variables being binary indicators of the students’ race. These results can be understood as the average kindergarten science gap by race. We then run additional specifications which include covariates that form an explanatory theme, such as the amount of dialogue that the students have with adults or the students’ language and immigration status. The difference between the first specification and each of the subsequent ones can be understood as the portion of the science achievement gap that each theme accounts for. We find that the theme that accounts for the largest part of each gap is the students’ language and immigration status. For Hispanics, this accounts for 61% of the English-Science gap and 75% of the Math-Science gap. For Asians, this accounts for roughly 40% of each gap. We then discuss the implications of these findings.



James grew up in Anne Arundel County, Maryland before moving to San Diego, California to do his undergraduate degree in business administration at Point Loma Nazarene University. After graduation in 2007, James volunteered for a non-profit in the economic development field in Beijing, China. After spending a short time in China, James returned to California, married his wife, Lauren, and then moved to Mexico City, Mexico. James initially worked in the micro-finance industry, but ended up spending the bulk of his time in Mexico working as a high school history and government teacher at the main international school in Mexico City. During their seven years in Mexico, James and Lauren had two children, Isabela and Morgan, who are now 6 and 4 respectively. Due to his experiences in Latin America, having two dual-citizen children, and his experience as a high school teacher, James decided to pursue a doctoral program to study local immigration and education policy. James is employed as a research assistant in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where he is also in his second year of their doctoral program.



James’ graduate research focusses on immigration policy and inequalities in education. This includes looking at the policies that municipalities and counties take to either welcome or exclude the immigrants that live in their jurisdictions. This also entails looking at the experiences of immigrants in our education system, such as their access to higher education and how immigration status affects their experiences and success in our k-12 system. It includes, more generally, looking at racial disparities in education.



  1. Dickson, Lisa, T. H. Gindling, and J. Kitchin. “In-state tuition and financial aid for undocumented immigrants in the United States: impact on high school graduation, college enrollment and college graduation.” Being presented by Lisa Dickson at the Association for Education Policy and Finance Annual Conference on March 17th, 2017.
  2. Kitchin, J. “Growing the Populations of Rustbelt Cities through Immigrant-Friendly Policy Regimes: Establishing a Robust Context.” Submitted for presentation at the APPAM DC Regional Student Conference on April 7-8, 2017.
  3. Curran, F. C., and J. Kitchin. “Estimating the Relationship between Corporal Punishment Use and Suspensions: Exploring the Potential Displacement Effects of Disciplinary Bans.” Being presented by James Kitchin at the Association for Education Policy and Finance Annual Conference on March 18th, 2017.


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