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Press Release: New Data Finds Nearly Half Of Students Ready For Kindergarten

More Rigorous Standards Also Reveal Achievement Gaps

For Immediate Release                                            Contact: Bill Reinhard, 410-767-0486

Baltimore, MD (April 26, 2016)

Maryland’s new Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) finds that nearly half of Maryland’s incoming students in the fall of 2015 were fully ready for learning. The data, released today in a report presented to the Maryland State Board of Education, confirm last year’s results, when the entering kindergarteners were assessed using the new assessment for the first time.

The report, Readiness Matters! found that 45 percent of incoming students were fully prepared to begin kindergarten.  Another 37 percent were “approaching” readiness, while 18 percent were “emerging.”  The results also uncovered gaps in readiness between certain student groups. The report also includes insights into readiness and children’s experience with various forms of pre-K experience.  The results nearly mirror the outcomes from last year when 47 percent were fully ready.

The results also spotlight gaps in readiness.  More than half of White and Asian-American children are entering kindergarten ready to learn -- 56 and 52 percent, respectively.  But only 41 percent of African-American students are fully prepared for kindergarten and just 27 percent of Hispanic students are kindergarten-ready.  The data revealed that students from low-income households, those for whom English is a second language, and students with disabilities have special challenges.

The KRA measures the skills and behaviors that children should have learned prior to entering kindergarten. It combines age-appropriate, standardized performance tasks that measure students’ specific skills, along with focused observations of children’s work and social interactions, to best understand what each entering kindergartner knows and is able to do in four key areas: social foundations; physical well-being and motor development; language and literacy; and mathematics. 

This assessment replaced the Maryland Model for School Readiness (MMSR) assessment, in use from 2001 to 2013. The new assessment is needed to put young students on a path toward meeting Maryland’s more rigorous Pre-K through 12th grade College and Career Ready Standards. The KRA sets a new baseline for tracking student progress in future years, aligned to the higher standards; the results are not directly comparable to the MMSR, which found in 2013 that 83 percent of kindergartners entering school in 2013 were “fully ready” for the curriculum.

The KRA reveals gaps in kindergarten readiness, including gaps among low-, middle- and upper-income households.  Just 33 percent of children who are eligible for free or reduced meals--the federal
proxy for low-income--enter kindergarten fully prepared, while 55 percent of children from middle- and upper income families are ready for kindergarten.

The data also provide information on kindergarten readiness based on pre-K experience, including:

  • Nonpublic nursery schools and childcare centers both top 50 percent in readiness.
  • Nearly 44 percent of public pre-K programs demonstrated readiness. 
  • 37 percent of children from family child care demonstrated readiness.
  • 33 percent of children from Head Start demonstrated readiness.
  • 29 percent of children who stay at home or are in informal care were found to be fully ready.

Teachers can use student KRA data to adjust instruction and improve learning.  Early childhood programs and school leaders can use the information to address achievement gaps and respond to the learning needs of certain groups of students.  The data also can be used to inform professional development, curricular changes, and future investments in learning.  At the same time, families can use the data to help support student learning at home.

MSDE had worked with local educators to develop the KRA, and has since engaged educators, including kindergarten teachers, to strengthen the assessment instrument and the administration process.  For example, this year’s version of the KRA was 20 percent shorter compared to last year, with some of the more time-intensive items removed. An enhanced reporting feature was put in place for teachers to access on-time reports of their students’ skill levels.

MSDE also has worked systems to improve access to technology and Wi-Fi for teachers working with the KRA. Additional professional development was provided for teachers.  Based on a teacher survey, conducted after the conclusion of the assessment, 63 percent rated the overall experience using the KRA as either good or excellent, 80 percent thought that the skills and behaviors were appropriate for kindergarten, and 90 percent thought the test materials were easy to use. They also reported on the time it took to complete the assessment, which – on average – took less time (40 minutes per student) than last year (50 minutes per student.)

The KRA data can be found at the link below: