(B)(3) Understanding the status of children's learning and development at kindergarten entry

The extent to which the State is administering, or has a High-Quality Plan to administer, a common, statewide kindergarten entry assessment that is aligned with the State's Early Learning and Development Standards, that informs instruction and services in the early elementary grades, and that—

  1. Covers all of the Essential Domains of School Readiness;
  2. Is valid, reliable, and appropriate for the target population and for the purpose for which it will be used;
  3. Is administered to all children who are entering a public school kindergarten statewide;
  4. Is appropriate for all children, including English learners and children with disabilities;
  5. Is reported to the Statewide Longitudinal Data System, and to the early learning data system if it is separate from the Statewide Longitudinal Data System, as permitted under and consistent with the requirements of Federal State, and local, privacy laws; and
  6. Will be administered statewide no later than the start of school year 2014-2015.

Comments

PACER recommends that any needed assessment should be embedded within an Early Childhood Special Education assessment so as to avoid duplication of testing and also to provide information for teachers and other caregivers working in inclusive settings.

Heather Kilgore
Public Policy Director
PACER Center
(952) 838-9000

  • After: “aligned with the State’s Early Learning and Development Standards,” add: “and that may be aligned with other existing State standards relating to child outcomes.”
  • (B)(3)(e) After “Statewide Longitudinal Data System,” add “and may also be reported to other existing State data systems that include data related to children.”

The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is appreciative of the hard work reflected in the development of the criteria for this competitive grant process, and submits the following comments and recommendations for consideration:

Assessments can be a valuable source of information for aligning instructional practices and curriculum with the needs of children and the varied educational settings in which children learn. Currently school districts within states are operating from policies that stipulate kindergarten programs are in session anywhere from 2.5 to 6 hours per day and in some instances turn away children from fully participating due to family’s inability to pay tuition. CDF is particularly concerned that already over-taxed half-day kindergarten teachers, some with 25 children in the morning and a different 25 in the afternoon, will interpret the new push to meet Common Core Standards, related state standards and assessment data on each child as the end of a more well-rounded curriculum and appropriate way of teaching; in other words, in a half-day setting, there will be tremendous pressure on teachers to sacrifice good early childhood teaching practices.

Unless specific guidance is given to kindergarten teachers (especially those in half-day classes) with respect to interpreting and applying the statewide assessment to the particular context in which they teach (half- or full-day), opportunities for children to develop executive functions, creative thinking skills and skills related to their behavior in group settings while engaged in activities will be replaced with narrow instructional practices due to the limited instructional time existing in half-day programs. To address this concern, CDF specifically recommends that Selection Criteria (B)(3)(c) be amended as follows:

(c) Is administered to all children who are entering a public school kindergarten statewide with professional development provided to teachers and administrators that addresses the use of assessment data in full and half-day kindergarten with regard to the scope and sequence of curriculum and instructional practices and as part of the early grades continuum (first through third).

If we take this extra step we will not only have valuable data about children entering kindergarten but we can use this data to inform teaching practices as children travel along the early learning continuum.

Cathy Grace
Children’s Defense Fund
Director, Early Childhood Development

On behalf of the Office of the Governor of the State of Illinois, the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Human Services: We support the Administration’s goal of understanding where all children are in all domains of school readiness as they begin kindergarten. However, we caution the Administration against placing undue emphasis on one form of assessment. We recommend that any assessment of young children be comprehensive, occur multiple times throughout the year, and provide for multiple measures of learning and development. It is also critical that assessments be used for their specifically

This section should be amended to ensure that states are prepared to support elementary schools and kindergarten teachers in administering kindergarten-entry assessments.

Because kindergarten-readiness assessments are typically administered during the kindergarten year, they require the cooperation of kindergarten teachers, principals and other professionals within elementary schools. To be administered properly and to ensure that the data from the assessments is used appropriately to inform instruction and communicate with parents, states should provide support, training and professional development related to these assessments. And to ensure that these assessments provide an accurate reflection of children’s strengths and weaknesses, states and localities may need the flexibility to collect data on children after they have spent a few months acclimating to the school setting. To this end, criteria B-3 could be enhanced and clarified by:
o Encouraging states to provide shared professional opportunities that address the use of these assessments. This PD should be shared among principals, early childhood center directors, pre-k teachers, childcare professionals, kindergarten teachers, and teachers in the 1st through 3rd grades so they can learn to use and act on the data from those assessments in ways that reflect what is known about how young children learn and develop.
o Clarifying when and how states may choose to administer these assessments, allowing for the flexibility of assessing children after they have become adjusted to school routines and when they might provide the most accurate reflection of children’s skills.

This is part of a full letter of recommendations and comments from the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation. The letter can be downloaded here: http://earlyed.newamerica.net/publications/resources/2011/comments_on_dr...

We already know that millions of children suffer from the effects of poverty and we know which children they are. We also know what to do about it. We don't need more precise data. The house is on fire: Sections B (3) and B (4) of this proposal are like spending money on measuring the exact temperature in each room, rather than rushing to put out the fire immediately. The money spent doing all these assessments might be enough to significantly reduce the problem.