Reciprocal Associations Between Executive Function and Academic Achievement: A Conceptual Replication of Schmitt et al. (2017)


  • Alexa Ellis Orcid
  • Sammy F. Ahmed
  • Selin Zeytinoglu
  • Elif Isbell
  • Susan D. Calkins
  • Esther M. Leerkes
  • Jennie K. Grammer
  • William J. Gehring
  • Frederick J. Morrison
  • Pamela E. Davis-Kean


The goal of the current study was to conduct a conceptual replication of the reciprocal associations between executive function (EF) and academic achievement reported in Schmitt et al. (2017, Using two independent samples (N (STAR) = 279, and N (Pathways) = 277), we examined whether the patterns of associations between EF and achievement across preschool and kindergarten reported in Schmitt et al. (2017) replicated using the same model specifications, similar EF and achievement measures, and across a similar developmental age period. Consistent with original findings, EF predicted subsequent math achievement in both samples. Specifically, in the STAR sample, EF predicted math achievement from preschool to kindergarten, and kindergarten to first grade. In the Pathways sample, EF at kindergarten predicted both math and literacy achievement in first grade. However, contrary to the original findings, we were unable to replicate the bidirectional associations between math achievement and EF in either of the replication samples. Overall, the current conceptual replication has revealed that bidirectional associations between EF and academic skills might not be robust to slight differences in EF measures and number of measurement occasions, which has implications for our understanding of the development EF and academic skills across early childhood. The present findings underscore the need for more standardization in both measurement and modeling approaches – without which the inconsistency of findings in published studies may continue across this area of research.