Though critically important for children's long-term well being, the beginning school transition generally has been neglected by sociologists interested in issues of schooling and social inequality. This chapter examines early school from an educational stratification perspective. Life-stage and developmental considerations heighten young children's sensitivity to school influences generally, while pressures associated with social role transitions (i.e. from “home child” to “school child”) challenge them. We review how out-of-school social structural influences associated with poverty, ethnicity, and family type complicate early school adjustment. Reviewed too are various structural arrangements in the social organization of early schooling (e.g. access to preschools, the restricted socioeconomic variability of elementary schools, and various kinds of educational “tracking”) that can either reinforce or offset out-of-school influences. We conclude with a call for more work on mechanisms of educational stratification in the early grades.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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