Child Trends’ Kindergarten Readiness Pilot Highlights an Important Issue

By Sarah Crow

Managing Director, First 5 Center for Children's Policy

How well a child is set up to succeed in kindergarten, often referred to as their readiness, is predictive of a child’s long-term academic success. States and counties use different kindergarten readiness inventory tools to understand kindergarten readiness in a way that can help tailor teacher instruction and/or gather population level information. This week, Child Trends announced its new pilot effort to collect kindergarten readiness data.

This pilot measure, known as the Healthy and Ready to Learn (HRTL) National Outcome Measure (NOM), aims to expand the data available on the development of children prior to kindergarten entry, and help paint a picture of children’s readiness and wellbeing at the state and national level. By providing a tool that can capture population level data on young children’s development and school readiness, this measure could potentially be used by stakeholders and policymakers to understand young children in their state and help direct funds to the areas where they are most needed. The data gathered from this tool could also be utilized in conjunction with certain kindergarten readiness tools to help expand our knowledge about school readiness in certain states or specific populations in the country.

This announcement highlights an important issue that California counties are grappling with, as well. For over a decade, county First 5 Commissions have been funding and helping to administer local kindergarten readiness data collection efforts. First 5s have been careful to embed measures of social emotional health and wellness into their work, and ensure that an understanding of the whole community is a part of a kindergarten readiness inventory. It is hard for a child to develop gross motor skills if there are no parks in her neighborhood, for example. If a family cannot access or afford quality child care, their child may not have as many opportunities to socialize with other children. See First 5 Alameda’s recent kindergarten readiness report that describes their efforts to hear from families and communities as part of their data collection effort.

While many counties collect this data and use it to inform classroom instruction and local investments to improve kindergarten readiness, this data collection is far from universal, or consistent. The state can play a role in ensuring that every county collects this critical information. The First 5 Center for Children’s Policy has been studying this issue closely, and will release a report on kindergarten readiness efforts soon.

To read the full report, click here.

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