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Kindergarten Assessment: Challenges and Opportunities

Last week, Children’s Institute President & CEO Swati Adarkar’s blog commented on the importance of Oregon’s Kindergarten Assessment to provide a statewide snapshot of whether children are entering kindergarten prepared. This snapshot can inform state policy and investment decisions.

As a snapshot, the Kindergarten Assessment (KA) should inform but not dictate these decisions. No one piece of data should be the sole basis for the big decisions that face Oregon regarding how to create an integrated, aligned, and effective early learning system. What we learn from the Kindergarten Assessment should be used thoughtfully and as one piece of a comprehensive dashboard on how Oregon’s young children are doing.

In its first year, the KA is already an important addition to a comprehensive dashboard. It is a missing link between early childhood providers and K-12 schools. In coming years, in order to maximize the value of this assessment, the state will need to maintain its commitment to full implementation. Some of the challenging issues to figure out include:

  • Defining kindergarten readiness. What behaviors and information do children need when entering kindergarten to set them on a path to success in third grade and beyond? How many letters and letter sounds should children know when they reach kindergarten? What social-emotional skills should already be in place? What early math skills do children need?
  • Supporting teachers. What time, training, and resources do teachers need to administer the assessment? And how can we support them in using the information as one data point to inform their instruction?
  • Parent education. How can we ensure parents understand what behaviors and information children need when entering kindergarten? And how do we help parents support their children’s healthy development?
  • Connection to early learning providers. How can educators and childcare providers use this information to inform their work with children birth to 5? What is the venue for early learning providers and the early grades (K-3) to come together to help kids move smoothly from preschool and childcare to public school?
  • Ensure reliability and validity. How will the state know the results they are getting back are accurate and valid? How will they know that the test is measuring the things that really matter?
  • English language learners. How can we make sure we are getting an accurate picture of the skills and knowledge of students who don’t speak English at home?

These are some of the issues Oregon will need to tackle in the coming years. These are big questions, and the Department of Education doesn’t have to answer them alone. The Early Learning Division says it plans to continue to gather stakeholder feedback on the KA in the coming years, and plans to use it to inform system change. We agree that the ELD needs to involve and listen to stakeholders as the KA continues. Children’s Institute is ready to engage.

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