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What States Have Done to Assess School Readiness

As South Carolina moves towards the adoption and utilization of a Kindergarten Entry Assessment, it is worth considering what other states are doing on this important measure. Many other states have had success implementing a developmentally-appropriate kindergarten entry assessment. For example, Oregon implemented a statewide Kindergarten Readiness Assessment in the fall of 2012 toprovide parents, teachers, and early childhood providers with a common understanding of what children know and are able to do upon entering school. Their instrument looks at early literacy, early math and approaches to learning and they are already reporting school, district, and state level results from the 2013-14 Kindergarten Assessment online. The tool was selected based on research of over 30 instruments and stakeholder input.

Additionally, the state of Washington made the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) mandatory in the 2012-2013 school year for state-funded full-day kindergarten classrooms. This program was developed to provide a statewide snapshot of where children in the state are in their development at the start of kindergarten in order to inform state-level decisions about education policy and investments. While WaKIDS utilizes an assessment tool (Teaching Strategy Gold ® Assessment), it is considered a process with three components to support the ready children, ready families, ready communities, ready schools equation. Their selection of this assessment was based on surveys, a literature review and focus groups. In the 2013‒14 school year, WaKIDS reached approximately 38,000 kindergartners t 564 schools.

In 2012, combined information from the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge funding competition indicated that 42 states had developed or were in the process of developing a kindergarten entry assessment. By January 2012, however, consensus around five key domains emerged among many states.

Domains commonly included in a kindergarten entry assessment:

  • Language and literacy development
  • Cognition and general knowledge (early mathematics and scientific development)
  • Approaches to learning
  • Physical well-being and motor development, including adaptive skills
  • Social and emotional development

Regardless of the number of domains measured, any kindergarten entry assessment must be linked to the standards being taught in kindergarten.  Aligning assessment instruments with early learning standards helps to reinforce the concept that the skills children need to be ready to enter school should be closely aligned with skills being taught in school.

As South Carolina continues to unify its diverse early care and learning system through the adoption of a statewide definition and description of school readiness, it will be essential to ensure students are ready to succeed when they enter school. Looking at the success of other states will provide guidance on how to measure school readiness. When South Carolina measures school readiness statewide and uses that data to continually improve early care and learning experiences for young children, we will systematically get children ready for school and ensure that they succeed once they get there.

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