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Kindergarten Readiness: More Than Colors and Shapes

Kindergarten Readiness: More Than Colors and Shapes

It’s almost that time of year again—when a new class of five-year-olds wearing backpacks bigger than they are cross classroom thresholds all over the country and begin their first year of formal education. While full-day kindergarten still isn’t required in all 50 states (hard to believe, right?), this milestone year has become increasingly important as the expectations of what these fresh-faced kiddos come to know now looks a whole lot like what 1st grade skills included not long ago. With the bar set high, kindergarten readiness assessments, also known as entry inventories, are being used to help educators gain a well-rounded understanding of the whole child and ultimately guide instructional practice. But, just what is being assessed and how are different states measuring readiness?

We’ll give you a clue—it’s about more than these little sponges knowing their colors and shapes. While it’s certainly important to understand the academic skills of these incoming kinder students, it’s just as critical to measure physical well-being and social and emotional development. Let’s take a closer look at how several states are rising to the challenge:

Ohio’s Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA)

Ohio kindergarteners are expected to complete the KRA beginning sometime between the first day of school and November 1. While some elements of this test might resemble the typical multiple-choice question and answer format (with teachers noting individual responses), others include asking students to perform a requested task. Additionally, some elements being assessed simply require teacher observation throughout the school day. Most importantly, alongside language, literacy, and mathematics, students are assessed on physical well-being and motor development, as well as social foundations. This includes things like: Can students hop, jump, and/or run with control and coordination? Can they interact and cooperate with peers?

Georgia Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (GKIDS)

The GKIDS Readiness Check is designed to be administered during the first six weeks of the school year. The Georgia Department of Education is quick to point out that the assessment, which highlights knowledge and skills critical for student success in learning, is solely used to guide instruction. The test focuses on three domains of learning, and the first two are just what you’d expect: “English Language Arts” and “Mathematics.” But, the third is something called “Foundations of School Success,” which essentially boils down to nonacademic skills that are leading indicators of students’ progression toward future academic success. This includes such concepts such as:

  • Independent learning with stamina
  • Following rules and routines
  • Playing cooperatively
  • Effectively using words to communicate

New Jersey Kindergarten Entry Assessment (NJKEA)

New Jersey educators use Teaching Strategies’ GOLD assessment during the first seven weeks of school to gain a comprehensive understanding of a child’s development. The ongoing formative tool uses multiple sources of evidence gathered over time to measure against 10 areas of development and learning. Like other state examples, this test is not an extended paper-and-pencil test but, rather, is developmentally appropriate for the age of the student. The rating instrument is based on classroom observations, and results are used in curriculum planning, professional development, and reporting with families.

Ohio, Georgia, and New Jersey certainly aren’t alone when it comes to establishing testing programs. While pressure for issuing kindergarten entry assessments was probably at its peak following federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grants, educators are still finding enough benefits to keep programs going. A few top reasons to establish a testing program are:

  1. With so much focus on early childhood education programs, assessments at the beginning of kindergarten could help point to which programs are actually working, thereby directing public dollars toward proven programming.

  2. While residential-based districting primarily drives the schools that students attend, parent choice largely directs what sort of 0–4 preparation children receive. Assessments empower parents to make informed decision about which program is the right choice.

  3. Kindergarten is not just finger painting and nap time. It’s essential to laying the groundwork for our littlest learners. Understanding what they know and need to know goes a long way in making sure that students are prepared for success in school and life.

Interested in learning more about important educational topics for our youngest generation of students? Check out our recent foundational learning articles on our blog!

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Madison Michell

Madison Michell has been a member of the Edmentum team since 2014 and currently serves as a Marketing Manager. As a former Kindergarten and 3rd grade teacher during her time as a Teach For America corps member, she believes education truly has the power to transform lives. She is passionate about connecting educators with online programs, best practices, and research that improve teaching and learning for today's students.