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Ready to Learn or Ready to Fail

PITTSBURG, Calif. – The skills kids need for success in school, work and life may be developed before even setting foot in a kindergarten classroom.

A team of researchers has found that the opposite is also true. Children who lack certain so-called social-behavioral skills may be on a path to failure very early on.

In Cherisse Dotson's kindergarten class, there is a routine for everything -- even play time.

These are the minutes when some of the most important lessons are learned.

It's called social behavioral readiness -- the skills kids need to manage emotions, listen and follow instructions. Skills that should be developed by age five.

"We can look at some of them and say if things don't change, we know where they are going to end up," Dotson said.

Researchers followed 9,000 students enrolled in the Baltimore public school system. They found that for most who weren't ready, it spelled disaster.

"Interestingly, what we saw was these kids are more likely to get suspended in kindergarten or retained in kindergarten," said Annie Bettencourt, clinical child psychologist at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.

By fourth grade, these students were seven times more likely to be expelled or suspended and 80 percent more likely to be retained and eighty percent more likely to need additional services.

"While schools are held accountable for teaching, teachers will say I could teach them to read if I could just get them to sit still and pay attention," said Deborah Gross, Child Psychiatric Nurse at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.

Researchers said parents need to create and keep routines at home and set aside 15 minutes every day to do something the child chooses. Because small habits at home can add up to big success at school.

Researchers also found that boys were more likely than girls to be suspended or held back and students who were held back or expelled were more likely to eventually drop out of school. The study was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of nursing and the Baltimore education research consortium.

Contributors to this news report include: Jessica Sanchez, Supervising Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; and Brent Sucher, Editor.