The Richmond Register

Education

March 14, 2013

Statewide kindergarten screen highlights the need for early childhood education

RICHMOND — Data released from a pilot kindergarten screen administered in the 2012-13 school year highlights the need for early childhood education and continued preschool intervention, said Mendy Mills, Madison County Schools instructional supervisor.

While Kentucky students are generally socially and emotionally ready to start kindergarten, “the majority are not ready to succeed academically,” according a March press release from the Kentucky Department of Education concerning the screen pilot data.

“The results clearly show many of our students are starting school at a disadvantage, often without the basic foundation on which to build academically,” the state’s education commissioner Terry Holliday said in the release.

Madison County Schools was one of the 109 districts that administered the Brigance Kindergarten screen to 31,480 kindergarten students in 458 schools for the pilot.  

Starting in the 2013-14 school year, every child in Kentucky entering kindergarten will go through the same screening, according to the KDE. Each year, more than 50,000 students enroll in public school kindergarten in the Kentucky.

“Until now, there has been no way for education officials, lawmakers and the public to get reliable, comparable data from across the state about how ready children are to start school,” the release stated.

Of the 789 Madison County kindergartners screened in 2012-13, 26 percent of incoming students were ready for kindergarten, similar to the state percentage of 28.

However, 74 percent of Madison County students were considered “ready with supports,” and 72 percent across the state fell in that same category.

“’Ready with supports’ is such a huge range of the score,” Mills said. A child could have been in the 25th percentile and the 80th percentile and still be considered “ready with supports.”

The category is so broad, she said, and many of kindergartner's common errors on the screen would be corrected within the first few weeks of school.

For example, a child was asked to identify lower case letters and the first three letters were “d,” “b” and “p” – which are commonly misidentified by children coming into kindergarten, Mills said.

When children were asked to identify colors, they had to say “magenta.” Or, they were supposed to say “waist” when the teacher pointed to it, instead of “tummy” or “stomach.”

As part of the basic screen, students are asked questions such as their name, letters, numbers and colors in three domains: Cognitive/General Knowledge; Language and Communications; and Physical Well-Being.

State pilot data revealed about 60 percent of children are average/above average in Cognitive/General Knowledge; 40 percent in Language and Communications; and 50 percent in Physical Well-being, according to the KDE release.

In addition to the basic screens, parents were asked to complete a social-emotional/self-help questionnaire that asks about personal qualities, such as whether a child uses eating utensils, brushes his or her teeth or can use the bathroom independently.

Of the 29,165 surveys completed statewide, around 80 percent of children were average/above average in social-emotional development and 71 percent in self-help skills.

However, Madison County teachers use additional assessments to guide instruction, Mills said.

The Fountas and Pinnell reading assessment is used to determine instructional level, she said. This assessment is used three times a year and is given through fifth grade.

The Add+Vantage Math Recovery assessment also is used to assess math skills, she said.

The Brigance Kindergarten screen is useful in “showing where students are when they come in,” she said, and further highlights the need for early childhood education.

The data also will be shared through the Madison County Early Childhood Alliance, a partnership between school districts and local daycare centers to share information on kindergarten readiness.

Each member center is partnered with preschool and kindergarten teachers in the district to form “IMPACT triangles” in which they share ideas and discuss concerns, said Karla Willis, preschool director for the district.

IMPACT stands for Improving, Motivating, Preparing, Achieving, and Collaborating Together.

“The Alliance strives to improve the opportunities for children in our community to be kindergarten-ready on their first day of school,” Willis said.

The Alliance developed a Kindergarten Readiness Checklist, which is supported by the state’s early childhood standards.  A readiness checklist will be given to parents as children are registered.

Madison County Schools kindergarten registration is April 16-18 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the school which the child will attend. Children must be five years old by Oct. 1 to register.

For a Headstart or preschool screening, call 625-6037.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.

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