Poster Paper: Ready for Kindergarten? School Readiness Measurement and Outcomes

Saturday, November 4, 2017
Regency Ballroom (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kirby A. Chow, Erika E. Gaylor and Shari Golan, SRI International

The Commonwealth of Virginia was awarded a federal Preschool Development Grant (PDG) to increase access and improve quality of the state-funded preschool program for four-year olds and their families in high need communities. One of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) measures requires PDG recipients to report on the number and percentage of children served by the grant who are ready for kindergarten. However, there is very little consensus about the exact definition or measurement of school readiness. This poster presentation will focus on describing the measures and approach the evaluation team is using to assess overall school readiness at kindergarten entry for children who participated in the Virginia Preschool Initiative Plus (VPI+) program during the 2015-16 school year (SY).

Virginia has adopted a definition of school readiness, but has not set benchmarks for measuring school readiness. For the purposes of the PDG, the evaluation team selected instruments to assess the Essential Domains of School Readiness: language and literacy development, cognition and general knowledge, approaches to learning, social and emotional development, and physical well-being and motor development. Instruments included the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening for Kindergarten; Woodcock Johnson® Tests of Achievement III Applied Problems subtest; Teacher-Child Rating Scale task orientation, peer social skills, and behavior control scales; and the Virginia Fine/Gross Motor Screening at Kindergarten. The evaluation team developed a set of benchmarks for each measure to determine whether or not children scored within the developmental range. For the literacy assessment, the developmental range is defined by the developers. For norm-referenced measures, we considered children as within the developmental range if their scores were at or above the mean or no more than two-thirds of a standard deviation below the mean based on guidance from early childhood and methodological experts. Children were classified as ready for kindergarten if they performed within the developmental range in both academic domains (literacy and math) and at least one of the other domains (approaches to learning or social and emotional development). Motor development was not included as a criterion for school readiness because 99% of children passed the state-mandated kindergarten motor development screener.

During the 2015-16 SY, VPI+ enrolled 1,551 children in 110 classrooms in 11 of Virginia’s 132 school divisions that ranked highest in need. In fall 2017, the evaluation team assessed 1,146 children who participated in VPI+ during the 2015-16 SY when they entered kindergarten. Overall, 70% of children demonstrated school readiness. A lower percentage of Hispanic (64%) and African American children (69%) demonstrated school readiness compared with White children (81%). At the domain level, most children demonstrated readiness in literacy (90%), cognition and general knowledge (83%), approaches to learning (84%), and about three-fourths of children demonstrated readiness in the social and emotional domain (72%). The Virginia Department of Education and divisions are using these findings to inform VPI+ program improvement efforts. The poster will share additional analyses that were conducted to identify appropriate benchmarks for individual measures and across the domains, and differences by child demographics.