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Developing a sustainable training plan to help kindergarten teachers understand and support students’ development

Developing a sustainable training plan

By Joni Wackwitz
October 9, 2018

Fall has arrived, and in classrooms across the nation, kindergarten teachers are busy identifying the strengths and needs of a new crop of students. In Illinois, the state’s new kindergarten entry assessment is helping to inform this process. Known as the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey, or KIDS, this tool provides teachers with valuable insight into students’ development.

To help teachers unlock the full power of KIDS, Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest and the Midwest Early Childhood Education Research Alliance (MECERA) teamed up with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) in 2017/18 to host a series of KIDS Data Use workshops across the state. More than 350 educators attended the sessions, and ISBE and REL Midwest are now expanding their support with three train-the-trainer workshops in October and November 2018. The goal is to ensure that all kindergarten teachers in Illinois have the information they need to provide students with a strong start.

Supporting teachers in interpreting and using KIDS data

Illinois implemented KIDS statewide in fall 2017. During the first 40 days of school, kindergarten teachers observe and document each child’s knowledge, skills, and behaviors on a minimum of 14 measures across four KIDS domains: Approaches to Learning and Self-Regulation, Social and Emotional Development, Language and Literacy Development, and Cognition: Math. The collected data are used to generate child, classroom, school, district, and state reports to provide a snapshot of what students know and can do at the start of kindergarten. To provide an even richer picture, KIDS power users have the option to collect data on up to 55 measures and readminister the tool in winter and spring to track students’ developmental progress.

To support teachers in interpreting KIDS data to inform classroom practice, REL Midwest staff with expertise in data analysis and adult learning worked closely with ISBE, the McCormick Foundation, and MECERA members to develop the KIDS Data Use Workshop series. During the 2017/18 academic year, REL Midwest delivered five in-person, two virtual, and three conference workshops in the southern, central, and northern parts of Illinois. In all, nearly 350 kindergarten teachers and administrators participated.


KIDS Data Use: 5 in-person workshops, 2 virtual workshops, 3 conference sessions, 350 educators served

The workshop series received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the field. During the hands-on sessions, facilitators guided teachers in accessing and analyzing their actual KIDS classroom data to identify student learning challenges and develop action plans to address them. “Having teachers print off and use their own class reports really helped bring the numbers to life,” noted Terri Lamb, principal consultant in ISBE’s Division of Early Childhood.

The workshops highlighted the relevance of KIDS for the classroom. Billie Day, REL Midwest partnership facilitator for MECERA, noted that teachers were often surprised to discover how KIDS data could help them identify learning gaps and tailor instruction. “Teachers really didn’t understand that they can use KIDS data for formative assessment in real time,” said Day. “As soon as teachers enter their KIDS data, they can print their reports. And by looking at their class data in the aggregate, they can see a picture that is often quite different than when thinking about individual students. Teachers can then consider how to arrange their classrooms and classwork to get at areas where students might be weak.”

Lamb noted that seeing the immediate benefits of KIDS in the classroom has helped strengthen teacher buy-in for the tool. She reported that the workshops helped teachers understand that KIDS is meant to complement and inform what they are already doing; and because KIDS is aligned with state standards, “in some cases, teachers may be able to eliminate other assessment tools by using a richer, fuller version of KIDS.”

Another benefit for teachers, said Michelle Escapa, the KIDS professional development coordinator, was the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues. She noted that teachers appreciated being “able to hear stories from other districts, share action steps, and discuss the uses and misuses of KIDS.”

As added support, an ISBE representative and a KIDS coach attended each session to field any questions specific to the KIDS tool. Administrators who support kindergarten teachers were encouraged to attend as well. Lamb notes that “having input from a variety of individuals who could offer different perspectives and answer a broader range of questions” made the sessions more useful.

For ISBE and district staff, the workshops helped clarify teachers’ needs around KIDS data use. ISBE has since added several KIDS resources to its website to strengthen support. And as the time neared for teachers to analyze their KIDS data again, REL Midwest staff followed up with workshop participants to provide a refresher and remind them of the ISBE and workshop resources available online.

>> View a recording and handouts from the two-hour virtual KIDS Data Use workshop.

Developing sustainable support: Train-the-Trainer KIDS Data Use workshops

To build on the success of the KIDS Data Use workshops, ISBE asked REL Midwest to host three train-the-trainer sessions across the state. These sessions will focus on developing a sustainable training plan by expanding the capacity of KIDS coaches, regional education staff, administrators, and district-nominated teacher leaders to lead their own KIDS Data Use workshops.

Scheduled for October and November 2018, the train-the-trainer sessions are timed to coincide with the 40th day of school, when Illinois kindergarten teachers will be ready to start analyzing their KIDS data. Participants will receive a facilitator’s guide and materials as well as extensive practice in leading a KIDS Data Use workshop. At the request of the stakeholder advisory group, REL Midwest also has added new resources, such as ISBE’s KIDS FAQ, and adapted the materials to allow for sessions of varying lengths.

In addition, REL Midwest is working with MECERA and Chicago’s public television station WTTW to develop a program on play-based learning, a research-based curriculum that suits observation-based tools such as KIDS. The program will be screened for the public in December 2018. Stay tuned to the REL Midwest blog for updates!

>> Learn more about kindergarten entry assessments and KIDS with REL Midwest’s video Kindergarten Entry Assessments: What You Need to Know and the video’s accompanying handout [187 KB PDF icon ].

>> Read about REL Midwest’s study analyzing the results of Illinois’ first statewide administration of KIDS in Fall 2017.

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Author Information

Joni Wackwitz Staff Picture

Joni Wackwitz

Senior Communications Specialist | REL Midwest

jwackwitz@air.org

Topics

Achievement Gap (16)

Career Readiness (19)

Early Childhood (14)

Education Technology (8)

Educator Effectiveness (2)

English Learners (3)

Research Methods (11)

Teacher Preparation (14)

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