In Massachusetts, the third grade MCAS administered every spring is the first statewide assessment of children’s educational progress. By then, as research clearly demonstrates, students who lag in reading will have a hard time ever catching up. Developmentally appropriate assessments of younger children would not only give us a snapshot of statewide progress but would also allow schools and programs to tailor instruction so children don’t fall behind in the first place.
Washington state is piloting just such a program this school year. The Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) will assess four general areas: literacy/language; social and emotional development; physical development; and cognitive/numeracy. Of the 70,000 children who began kindergarten in Washington state last month, 3,000 kindergartners in 120 districts are participating in the pilot. Once the pilot is evaluated, officials will decide whether to implement it statewide.
The purpose of the pilot program, according to the Washington Department of Early Learning is “to have families, kindergarten teachers, and early learning providers compare communication processes and assessment tools so that a Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) is designed in statewide collaboration.” The pilot includes time for providers of early education and kindergarten teachers to meet and share information about children making the transition to kindergarten.
Here in Massachusetts, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has received a grant to develop assessments for kindergarten to second grade. In addition, the law establishing the Department of Early Education and Care in 2005 requires the state to develop a kindergarten readiness tool.
A number of other states assess kindergarten readiness, and the WaKIDS website includes links to several of them. A Child Trends brief — “A Review of School Readiness Practices in the States: Early Learning Guidelines and Assessments” – gives an overview of states’ policies.