Panel Paper: Using Evidence to Evaluate the Barriers to on-Time Kindergarten Registration and Inform District Policy

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Harding - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Katherine Mosher1, Kristyn Stewart1 and Ryan Fink2, (1)School District of Philadelphia, (2)University of Pennsylvania

This paper will discuss the findings of a collaborative research effort by the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) that sought to identify the causes of late Kindergarten Registration. Fewer than 50% of the students who ultimately attend Kindergarten register “on time” (between January and the end of the prior school year). Although registration re-opens in the fall, 23% of the 2017-18 Kindergarten class was still unregistered a week into the school year, and roughly 15% had not yet registered by the end of the second week of school. Late registration presents resource-allocation challenges for schools and results in a loss of critical learning time. Data from the 2016-17 school year reveals a statistically significant difference between the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) of students who registered late for Kindergarten and those who registered on time. Furthermore, chronically absent students are less likely to read at grade level at the end of Kindergarten (Erlich et al, 2013; Stewart and Saleet, 2018).

In order to better understand the barriers to on-time registration, SDP collaborated with the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) to examine the causes of late Kindergarten Registration and to provide practitioners with actionable data to inform District-level policy and procedure changes. In total, research staff from SDP interviewed 46 parents and 16 staff from 12 District schools, and CPRE conducted focus groups and interviews with 139 parents from nine District Schools. SDP conducted interviews in schools in which approximately 50% of Kindergarten students were registered on time, while CPRE focused on schools with particularly low (<20%) and particularly high (>70%) on-time registration rates. In addition to interviews and focus groups, SDP used extant data from the 2016-17 District-Wide Pre-Kindergarten Parent Survey on the role of Pre-K partners in the Kindergarten transition process. SDP also developed and administered a survey to School Secretaries, who manage the Kindergarten Registration process at schools. This multi-tiered approach to data collection enabled SDP to consider multiple perspectives from stakeholders across the District.

Several common themes emerged from the data, including the difficulty of obtaining the required documentation, a lack of clear information about catchment zones, concerns over custody challenges and residency falsification, and a lack of support for staff who manage the registration process. Furthermore, data revealed that the messaging around “on time” registration is inconsistent and poorly understood. In response to these findings, SDP has identified Kindergarten Transition Leads at each elementary school to coordinate registration outreach efforts in conjunction with the District. SDP is also collaborating with the City of Philadelphia to use immunization records to identify and contact families with eligible Kindergarten students about Kindergarten registration. Finally, SDP is providing additional clarification to School Secretaries about the required documentation and how to approach custody or residency issues. The paper will also discuss how the collaboration between SDP and CPRE allowed each organization to leverage resources to rapidly respond to a research need and to quickly turnaround evidence for decision-making.

Full Paper: