This study examined the role of individual risk factors in relation to emergent patterns of poor academic performance during the early stages of a child''s school career. The study shows that poor performance is evident in early elementary school. Poor performance is associated with low scores on test of cognitive ability and early manifestations of problem behavior, specifically attention problems. The study also showed significant race effects that increased in their substantive relationship over time. Past research has shown a fairly consistent and robust association between school performance and delinquency. The current study examines the impact of early precursors of school failure as potential stepping stones to later life difficulties.