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Children’s knowledge and skills at kindergarten entry in Illinois: Results from the first statewide administration of the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey


Starting in fall 2017, the Illinois State Board of Education required kindergarten teachers to use an observational kindergarten entry assessment called the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey. This study examined whether the measures formed using the assessment data were valid and reliable and described the means and variation in children's knowledge and skills at school entry. To inform future professional development on data collection and use, the study team also interviewed teachers and administrators about their experience with the assessment. Teacher ratings of 113,716 children's skills on the fall 2017 Kindergarten Individual Development Survey were used to test the psychometric properties of the data and to describe the means and variation in children's knowledge and skills across subgroups and schools. Data resulting from interviews with a sample of nine kindergarten teachers and nine principals were analyzed for key themes related to barriers to data collection and suggestions for improving training and support for those collecting data. The 14 items on the assessment measured two developmental domains that were reliable and valid for all subgroups: (1) the Academic knowledge and skills domain, which included items related to number sense, shapes, and classification, as well as items related to letter and word recognition, phonological awareness, and reading comprehension; and (2) the Learning and social skills domain, which included items related to curiosity and initiative in learning, self-control, engagement and persistence, relationships and social interactions, expressive language, and reciprocal communication. In addition, the study team found inequalities in entry-level knowledge and skills. The following groups had higher skills at kindergarten entry: children ineligible for free or reduced-price lunch relative to eligible children; females relative to males; children without English learner status relative to those with it; children without an individualized education program relative to those with one; and Asian and White children relative to Hispanic and Black children. The study team also found that the concentration of poverty within a school had a negative relationship with a child's academic knowledge skills at kindergarten entry, even when controlling for whether the child was eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Finally, teachers and principals expressed a few barriers and facilitators administering the assessment and suggested several ways that their schools, districts, and the state can support their use of the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey. The results are based on the first year of data collection. If results hold in future years, then state and local administrators could consider reporting results for two instead of three domains and providing targeted support to reduce inequalities in children's knowledge and skills at school entry. In addition, findings from the interviews suggest a need for continued professional development for teachers and administrators in the process of generating and using data, continuous improvement of the online data reporting tool, and ongoing communication about the purposes of administering the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey.

Publication Type:
NCEE/REL Evaluation Report
Online Availability:
Publication Date:
October 2019