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Assessing kindergarten children’s knowledge and skills

Assessing kindergarten children's knowledge and skills

By Joni Wackwitz
April 23, 2018

The first day of kindergarten is a time of discovery. The children arrive armed with school supplies and backpacks, their faces revealing a range of emotions from excitement to apprehension. Less obvious are the range of backgrounds, skills, and abilities they bring—from a child who can sit quietly, follow directions, and read at an elementary level to one who has limited language and numbers skills and struggles to listen and remain seated.

Kindergarten entry assessments provide a way to measure children’s range of knowledge, skills, and behaviors—both on an individual level and across subgroups, schools, and districts. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has adopted the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) to help teachers, administrators, families, and policymakers better understand the developmental progress of children entering kindergarten. The first statewide administration of KIDS took place in fall 2017, and Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest is conducting a research study to analyze the results.

The REL Midwest study will provide a statewide summary of the level of skills that Illinois children exhibited during the first 40 days of kindergarten, as well as how those skill levels varied across subgroups and schools. In addition, the study will analyze the validity and reliability of the KIDS data to see whether the assessment measured what was intended. Furthermore, researchers have interviewed Illinois principals and kindergarten teachers about the obstacles they experienced during KIDS administration and data collection.

The KIDS domains required in Illinois focus on children’s knowledge, skills, and behaviors across four key domains: Approaches to Learning and Self-Regulation; Social and Emotional Development; Language and Literacy Development; and Cognition: Math

The study’s findings will help ISBE identify and address gaps in children’s knowledge and skills. These gaps matter because they can persist and have consequences for children’s academic trajectory and even their future health and earnings. Although some gaps may be individual, others may be the result of broader risk factors, such as poverty and current and past inequalities in society. Because many of these risk factors can be addressed through public policy, ISBE is interested in the relationship between those factors and children’s skills at the start of kindergarten.

In addition, ISBE will use the results of the interviews with teachers and principals to improve the KIDS data collection process and target and develop state-provided KIDS training and supports for teachers and administrators.

The study is currently underway, and the findings are slated for publication on REL Midwest’s website in 2019. Learn more about the project.

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Author(s) Information

Joni Wackwitz Staff Picture

Joni Wackwitz

Senior Communications Specialist | REL Midwest


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