42 per­cent of kinder­gart­ners ‘fully ready’ for school

Charles re­sults hew closely to state

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

Charles County kinder­gart­ners ranked slightly be­hind the state av­er­age in terms of readi­ness for school, ac­cord­ing to the re­sults of the 2015-16 Kinder­garten Readi­ness As­sess­ment (KRA).

The Mary­land State Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion re­leased the re­sults of the KRA last week.

The test was ad­min­is­tered last fall to all en­ter­ing kinder­garten stu­dents at the start of the 2015-16 school year. Com­pos­ite re­sults for each county are ranked in three cat­e­gories: fully ready, ap­proach­ing readi­ness and emerg­ing readi­ness.

In Charles County, 42 per­cent of new kinder­garten stu­dents were rated “fully ready,” com­pared with 45 per­cent for the state and 47 per­cent for Charles County in the 2014-15 school year, the first time the KRA was ad­min­is­tered.

How­ever, only 16 per­cent of Charles County kinder­gart­ners were found to have “emerg­ing readi­ness” this year, the low­est cat­e­gory, com­pared with 18 per­cent for the state.

The big­gest de­mo­graphic caps were found amongst special pop­u­la­tions — stu­dents iden­ti­fied as special ed­u­ca­tion (18 per­cent), English lan­guage learn­ers (20 per­cent) and free and re­duced meals stu­dents (35 per­cent). State re­sults were within 1 or 2 per­cent­age points of the county.

Amongst race and eth­nic­ity groups, his­panic stu­dents had the big­gest readi­ness gap, with only 26 per­cent rated “fully ready,” only a per­cent­age point lower than the state av­er­age for his­panic

stu­dents.

“It’s very close [to the Mary­land re­sults] in all the ways we look at it,” said Mary Kate Long, a spe­cial­ist in early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion for Charles County Pub­lic Schools. “We mir­rored the state very closely last year as well.”

In the KRA, stu­dents are rated as ei­ther “ready” or “not yet ready” for kinder­garten work in four cat­e­gories: Lan­guage and lit­er­acy, math­e­mat­ics, so­cial foun­da­tions and phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

Charles County scores in the lat­ter three re­mained within a few per­cent­age points of last year’s re­sults, but lan­guage and lit­er­acy dropped from 50 per­cent ready in 2014-15 to 41 per­cent in 2015-16.

Chil­dren who came into kinder­garten from pre-kinder­garten also fared bet­ter (43 per­cent) than stu­dents who were com­ing to kinder­garten from home care (31 per­cent) or fam­ily care (30 per­cent).

“It did show that our pre-k pro­gram did nar­row the gap between pop­u­la­tions, but I would like it to be a lot bet­ter,” Long said, adding that the in­for­ma­tion would be used to de­velop pro­fes­sional train­ing for pre-kinder­garten teach­ers. “We’re go­ing to fo­cus on lan­guage and lit­er­acy, be­cause that’s where the drop was.”

Long said that in­di­vid­ual class­room data would also be avail­able to teach­ers so that they could use it to ad­just in­struc­tion.

The KRA is only in its sec- ond year, and yet it has al­ready gen­er­ated con­tro­versy. The test was ad­min­is­tered at the start of the school year to all kinder­garten stu­dents, much of it one-on-one between the teacher and the stu­dent.

“It was stress­ing stu­dents, and it was frus­trat­ing teach­ers to be ad­min­is­ter­ing this test at the be­gin­ning of the school year when they’re sup­posed to be devel­op­ing a re­la­tion­ship with their stu­dents,” said Linda McLaugh­lin, pres­i­dent of the Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion of Charles County, the lo­cal teach­ers’ union. “It’s harm­ing our youngest learn­ers, and how can you in­still a love of learn­ing in your stu­dents when you start off by putting them through the pres­sure of test­ing?”

The KRA be­came a part of the Gen­eral As­sem­bly’s dis­cus­sion on test­ing this ses- sion, and last week, Mary­land Gov­er­nor Larry Ho­gan (R) signed into law a bill that will al­low the KRA to be ad­min­is­tered to a “rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple” of stu­dents.

“We’re re­ally happy that it was made into a sam­pling test, and we will be speak­ing with the su­per­in­ten­dent and the board of ed­u­ca­tion to keep it as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­pling test,” McLaugh­lin said, adding that ju­ris­dic­tions still have the op­tion of ad­min­is­ter­ing the test to all stu­dents.

State ed­u­ca­tion spokesman Bill Rein­hard said Tues- day that MSDE is cur­rently work­ing on de­ter­min­ing how and to whom the test will be ad­min­is­tered in the 2016-17 school year.

“Cer­tainly, we ex­pect to have those de­tails fi­nal­ized by early sum­mer,” Rein­hard said.

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