Friday, September 24, 2010

Report: “State Approaches to School Readiness Assessment”

How do states assess school readiness? The methodology behind education statistics is particularly relevant during election season (see the Maryland Governor's Race).The National Conference of State Legislatures released an updated technical report in August, “State Approaches to School Readiness Assessment,” that closely examines states’ approaches to readiness assessments. Such a report is significant because of the correlation between kindergarten success and positive adult outcomes.

The NCSL classifies readiness as a child’s: physical well-being, social and emotional development, approach to learning, language development, cognition and general knowledge. Findings in these categories enable states to track gains among the kindergarten population, compare readiness across districts, and connect readiness data to later school performance or backwards to early learning programs. Cross-state analysis is limited due to varied approaches throughout the United States.

Only 26 states perform readiness assessments and four of those do not require assessment of all kindergarten students. Minnesota conducts a cost-efficient sampling process, while Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Tennessee do not specify a particular instrument by which the data is collected. States like Minnesota and Maryland use a state-created instrument to perform analysis of students. The NCSL report states that, “Ideally, evaluation of the complicated set of skills and behaviors that comprise ‘school readiness’ would use multiple assessment methods.”

Inconsistencies among data make it difficult to improve programs and services for early learning based upon the information. The NCSL report notes that there will soon be a renewed federal emphasis on these data systems that will result in increased focus on readiness evaluations. Nevertheless, changes in school readiness assessments must maintain some universal consistency while accounting for regional and state differences.

For more on Ensuring Children are Healthy and Prepared to Succeed in School.

1 comment:

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