Providing a Strong Start for the Future

Providing a Strong Start for the Future
Posted on 01/21/2016

By Judy Rutkiewic, Coordinator of Instruction for Early Childhood Education

In Worcester County, we believe that a quality transition to kindergarten will bring life-long benefits to a child. The formative years from birth to age five truly set the stage for a child’s development and readiness for school.

“School readiness” predicts a child’s ability to succeed in the kindergarten program, based on the child’s development from birth to age 5. Children enter kindergarten with varying experiences: Some go to childcare or nursery school and some stay at home. Other youngsters are enrolled in Head Start and/or half-day pre-kindergarten.

Knowing a child’s school readiness helps educators personalize instruction based on a child’s individual needs. For instance, instruction would be differentiated for the child that needs to be challenged and the child who may need to develop basic skills. Having a measure of school readiness gives educators a starting point from which to measure progress.

There are many correlations between school readiness and academic success. According to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), “Children who enter school with high levels of readiness are more likely to succeed academically throughout their school careers, as well as later in life.” Our own data confirms this finding.

Determining school readiness falls under MSDE’s Ready for Kindergarten (R4K) initiative. The assessment tool for R4K is called the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, or KRA. In this case, the word “assessment” refers to broader indicators than a test. The KRA includes teacher observations; student performance tasks where students apply what they know to a task; and a student’s selected responses on a test.

The purpose of the KRA is two-fold. First, the purpose is to address the needs of each child once they have entered kindergarten. Second, and just as important, is the need to strengthen the programs available to our youngest students before they enter mandatory full-day kindergarten. Since school readiness is vital to a student’s long-term success, the goal is to have 100 percent of youngsters ready for the kindergarten curriculum at age 5. Currently, 48 percent of Worcester County’s children entered kindergarten classrooms demonstrating the skills and behaviors needed to fully participate in the kindergarten curriculum.

Determining a child’s school readiness is not a new concept. Prior to KRA administration, schools would administer the Work Sampling System (WSS) under the Maryland Model for School Readiness (MMSR). In the past, school readiness was determined through teacher observations only, over a two-to-three week period. The WSS was also based on the old standards, while the new KRA is based on the Maryland College and Career Ready Standards.

Both the KRA and the former WSS assessment process seek to measure several domains important to learning. The KRA has a stronger emphasis on social/emotional development and physical/motor development than ever before. Worcester County is continuing to provide professional development, two-way communication, and support for our teachers as their comfort level increases as Maryland schools continue with this valuable assessment process.

If you have additional questions about school readiness or the kindergarten assessment, please call me at 410-632-5042.