Are kids ready for kindergarten?

Published 10:35 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A third are not, said schools official

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

Thirty-four percent of kindergartners arrive at school unprepared in at least one of four key areas, according to Pam Hatfield, Isle of Wight County schools instructional coordinator for pre-school, reading (K-8) and other programs.

The statistic was presented at the Sept. 27 Isle of Wight School Board meeting as a lead-in to Hatfield’s presentation of the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program — a data-gathering program applied to kindergarteners within the first four to six weeks of school, implemented in Isle of Wight this fall. 

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Using the program’s observational tests, Isle of Wight kindergarten teachers will assess pupils’ mathematical, literacy, self-regulation and social skills at the start of every academic year. This year’s testing took place between Sept. 24 and Oct. 5. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

At the school board meeting, Chairperson Vicky Hulick said that kindergarten teachers are usually capable of noticing these types of developmental problems already. 

While Hatfield agreed, she added that the VKRP provides increased amounts of data on each child that can be easily shared with parents. 

“Children falling below the benchmark are struggling to master basic skills such as identifying letters, connecting letters to letter sounds, counting to 20, naming basic shapes, following a teacher’s instructions, persisting on a new task and sharing with classmates,” said Hatfield on Oct. 15.

Through VKRP, math skills are tested using the Early Mathematics Assessment System — a 15-20 minute, teacher-administered direct assessment of children’s number and geometric/spatial competencies. 

Kindergarteners’ self-regulation and social skills are assessed using the Child Behavior Rating Scale — a 17-item rating scale completed by the teacher that measures skills such as following classroom rules, concentrating on activities, socializing with peers and complying with adult directives. 

Previously, Isle of Wight teachers tested kindergarteners’ literacy by means of Phonological Awareness Literacy Screenings, or PALS tests, which remain alongside new tests measuring students’ math, self-regulation and social skills. 

The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year that requires all kindergarten students to be assessed using the VKRP by the end of the 2019-2020 school year and annually thereafter. Full statewide implementation will be spread over the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years.

On Aug. 22, kindergarten teachers, elementary reading coaches and the division’s English coordinator received hands-on training in order to administer the tests, according to Hatfield. She added that additional support will be provided as needed.  

The VKRP tests aren’t intended to screen for autism, attention deficit disorder nor attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  

The VKRP’s pilot study was conducted in 2014 by the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning. The project tested 2,036 kindergarten students drawn from 100 classrooms across Virginia and came to the conclusion that 34 percent of kindergarteners arrived unprepared. 

The report also references the school readiness gap: the proportion of children from low-income backgrounds who enter kindergarten with the necessary readiness skills (48 percent) is proportionally lower than their economically-advantaged peers (75 percent).  {/mprestriction}