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Exploring State-by-state Definitions of Kindergarten Readiness to Support Informed Policymaking

By Ashley Pierson | January 29, 2018


Ashley Pierson
Ashley Pierson conducts research and evaluation projects and provides technical assistance to support the use of data and evidence in policy and practice.

What does it mean to be kindergarten ready?

It's an important question—and the answer can vary, depending on where you live.

More than half of states have a definition for kindergarten readiness, and at least 25 states require kindergarten entry assessments (KEAs) to help educators better understand what students know upon entering kindergarten. Other states are gradually phasing in KEAs and/or making them optional.

However, nationwide, there is no common understanding or definition of "kindergarten readiness" or "school readiness," which KEAs are intended to measure. As these assessments have become more prominent and prevalent over the past five years, many states have developed their own definitions of kindergarten readiness. Prompted by inquiries from stakeholders in Alaska and Montana, who were curious about what other states were doing in terms of defining and measuring kindergarten readiness, REL Northwest decided to examine the national landscape.

In spring 2016, we searched state education agency websites to document existing state-adopted definitions of kindergarten readiness and KEAs. The results were compiled into a 50-state scan that we shared with our partnership members.

The findings include:

  • As of June 2016, 26 states had a definition of kindergarten readiness that was either formally adopted or promoted throughout the state
  • Of the states that did not yet have a definition, six were developing one
  • Most states use KEAs for at least one of the following purposes:
    • To inform classroom instruction, curriculum planning, and professional development needs
    • To identify students in need of specialized supports or interventions
    • To provide a statewide snapshot of what children know when they enter kindergarten, monitor changes over subsequent kindergarten cohorts, and inform public policy and public investments in early childhood

This information can help stakeholders in the Northwest—and across the country—understand what other states are doing, which can help an individual state set policy regarding kindergarten readiness and KEAs by having other examples to draw on.

REL Northwest looks forward to working with early learning stakeholders across the region to dive into the results of the scan and use the corresponding data to ensure all children can reach their full potential in kindergarten—and beyond.


Download Excel File:
50 State Scan of Kindergarten Readiness Definitions and Assessments