- Report Published -
|The Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Project Executive Summary & Legislative Report - Fall 2014, Phase II|
|Elevate Early Education|
|Appropriation Act - Item 341 L. (Special Session I, 2014)|
|Need for Kindergarten Readiness Assessments in Virginia|
The results of the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Project (VKRP) summarized in this report indicate that 34% of children in the Commonwealth arrive at kindergarten unprepared in one or more critical learning domains (literacy, math, self-regulation, and social skills). Children who enter kindergarten behind their peers rarely catch up; instead, the achievement gap widens over time. Absent early intervention, these children are also more likely to fall below grade level expectations, to be retained in school, to be placed in special education, and to drop out of high school. The Commonwealth currently uses the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS), a pre-literacy measure, as its only assessment of children’s skills as they enter kindergarten. VKRP implemented and evaluated a comprehensive readiness assessment, which provides the Commonwealth, districts, schools, and teachers valuable information about children’s skills not only in literacy but in math, social skills, and self-regulation - other areas of performance key to school success. The availability of more comprehensive kindergarten readiness data across the state provides guidance to the Commonwealth’s efforts to identify effective policies, interventions, and investments for young children. This executive summary report (*1) provides a brief description of the VKRP, summarizes key results, and makes data-driven recommendations for next steps.
Project Goals and Approach
The VKRP, commissioned by Elevate Early Education (E3) and conducted by the University of Virginia’s Center for the Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL), had the following key goals related to understanding kindergarten readiness in Virginia:
• Select assessment tools for use statewide to accurately assess children’s incoming school readiness skills across a range of readiness domains, beyond early literacy
• Pilot selected assessments to create a “snapshot” of Virginia’s entering kindergarteners’ readiness skills across a range of learning domains
• Describe the ways in which children and classrooms vary in readiness skills
• Present recommendations to implement a statewide comprehensive readiness assessment
• Present data that inform public policy and funding decisions in early childhood education
The final measures for assessing Virginia children’s kindergarten readiness skills were selected from among a number of options that met the following criteria: a) complemented the PALS assessment; b) had been used successfully in early childhood education research; c) demonstrated prior evidence of validity; d) aligned with the Virginia Early Education Foundation Blocks and Standards of Learning; e) were feasible for teachers to administer accurately within a reasonable time-frame; and f) offered data to teachers to guide instruction.
The selected measures included: a) the Tools for Early Assessment in Mathematics-Short Form (TEAM-SF) - a 20-item, teacher-administered direct assessment of preschool children’s number and geometric/spatial competencies; and, b) the Child Behavior Rating Scale (CBRS) - a 17-item rating scale completed online by the teacher that measures children’s self-regulation skills (e.g., follow classroom rules, concentrate on activities,) and social skills (e.g., cooperate with peers, comply with adult directives). Teachers conducted these additional readiness assessments immediately prior to their administration of PALS.
Children were identified as “not ready” if their scores fell below the fall benchmark/established cut point on any of the assessed learning domains (literacy, math, self-regulation, or social skills).
The participating teachers and children included 2,036 kindergarten students drawn from 100 classrooms and 41 schools within 16 districts across the eight superintendents’ regions of Virginia. This sample was recruited to be representative of the students attending kindergarten in the Commonwealth and to be diverse with regard to geographic regions and child demographic characteristics (see Legislative Report for comparisons to statewide averages). On average, children in the pilot were 5.4 years old, 47.5% were female, 11.4% were identified as English language learners, and 7.2% had an Individual Education Plan. In terms of ethnicity, children were mostly White, Not Hispanic (51%), whereas 28% were Black, 9% were Hispanic, 6% were Asian and 6% were other.
(*1) The full report of the VKRP Phase II pilot is available. Williford, A. P., Downer, J.T., & Hamre, B. K. (2014). "Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Project--Phase 2, Legislative Report". Research report prepared for Elevate Early Education (E3)