Repository logo

Executive Function Measurement in Urban Schools: Exploring Links Between Performance-Based Metrics and Teacher Ratings



Change log


Zonneveld, Anne 


In the past three decades, there has been an increased interest in the study of children’s executive functions and how they are measured. Executive functions are often thought to involve higher-order mental processes needed to facilitate goal-oriented behaviour through conscious control of thoughts and actions. Common components of executive functioning include working memory, inhibition, and shifting. Each component provides an element of purposeful, self-directed behaviour, making each important for cognitive development.

When compared to research centred on the executive function development of White, middle-class children, relatively little is known about their non-White, low socioeconomic status peers. In an effort to harmonise executive function measurement within under-represented contexts, the present study addresses gaps in the evaluation of everyday executive functioning to better understand whether behaviour rating scales completed by teachers (BASC2EF – BASC executive function scale, 2nd edition; BASC3EF – BASC executive function scale, 3rd edition) capture distinctions between performance-based measures.

This study includes two large samples of older, ethnic minority children from high-poverty backgrounds within the United States (Sample 1. N = 243; Mage = 9.28 years, SDage = 0.80; nfemale = 125; nAfricanAmerican = 216, nLatinAmerican = 15, nAsianAmerican = 6; Sample 2. N = 229; Mage = 10.02 years, SDage = 1.01; nfemale = 120 nAfricanAmerican = 132, nLatinAmerican = 92, nWhite = 3, nPacificIslander = 1). Based on confirmatory factor analyses and structural equation models testing the links between computerized performance-based measures and the teacher rating scales, the results indicate that BASC2EF in its original form might be a good fit for some populations, but there is not a strong factor structure for the current high-poverty samples. In addition, post-hoc analyses suggest that only including BASC2EF items also in BASC3EF or using BASC3EF is best practice for high-poverty populations. BASC3EF seems better able to capture different components of performance-driven tasks, whereas BASC2EF captures overall executive functioning better than individual tasks.

These findings encourage continued questioning surrounding metrics used to assess everyday executive functions in older children from high-poverty, ethnic minority backgrounds. Additionally, this work reaffirms the importance of including diverse samples in executive function research as they are an important part of understanding the development of these essential cognitive skills. Finally, these findings further demonstrate the importance of exploring the utility of different versions of executive function assessments that continue to be used in longitudinal research or archived datasets.





Ellefson, Michelle
Ögel-Balaban, Hale


computerised tasks, ethnic minority, executive functions, middle childhood, socioeconomic status, teacher rating scales


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
United States Department of Education (R305A110932)