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Report examines the results and lessons learned from a new statewide kindergarten entry assessment

Report examines statewide kindergarten entry assessment

By Joni Wackwitz
November 22, 2019

As a growing number of states adopt kindergarten entry assessments, education leaders can benefit from other states’ experiences and challenges. A new report from Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest examines the first statewide administration of Illinois’s new kindergarten entry assessment, the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS). The findings provide a baseline for future years and highlight lessons learned.

>> Read and download the full report

Beginning in fall 2017, all kindergarten teachers in Illinois were required to administer KIDS during the first 40 days of school to report on each child’s skills at the start of kindergarten. At the request of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), REL Midwest and the Midwest Early Childhood Education Research Alliance (MECERA) conducted a study of Illinois’s first statewide administration of KIDS.

The study had three goals:

  • Analyze the reliability and validity of measures from KIDS.
  • Describe Illinois children’s average skills at the start of kindergarten and how those skill levels varied across child subgroups and school poverty levels.
  • Interview kindergarten teachers and principals about challenges they experienced with KIDS and their suggestions for improvements.

The study used data from the fall 2017 administration of KIDS as well as state student records, the federal Common Core of Data, and fall 2017 interviews with nine kindergarten teachers and nine principals in Illinois. The research team analyzed the quantitative data using psychometric and regression analyses and analyzed the interviews by coding transcripts to identify themes. The sample included 113,716 Illinois children who had ratings on at least 80 percent of the 14 required KIDS items.

What did the study find?

The study of the fall 2017 KIDS data highlighted gaps in Illinois children’s skills at the start of kindergarten as well as several challenges and needs related to KIDS data collection and reporting.

  • Analyses found that KIDS measures two developmental domains: (1) learning and social skills and (2) academic knowledge and skills. The measures of these domains were reliable and valid across all child subgroups.
  • Nearly 9 in 10 Illinois children (88 percent) had an average rating below the scale’s midpoint on learning and social skills, and 85 percent had an average rating below the scale’s midpoint on academic knowledge and skills.
    • Children’s skills differed across certain subgroups, including gender, race/ethnicity, English learner status, eligibility for the national school lunch program, and eligibility for an individualized education program (IEP).
    • The study found that children eligible for the national school lunch program would need 51 additional days of instruction to close the academic knowledge and skills gap at the start of kindergarten. Children eligible for an IEP would need 45 additional days of instruction, and English learner children would need 21 additional days of instruction.
  • Teachers and principals reported multiple challenges in administering and reporting KIDS, including difficulties observing all skills for every child, choosing between adjacent rating categories, and entering data into the online portal.
    • Suggestions to address these challenges included providing more information about the intended purposes of KIDS, using a play-based instructional approach to facilitate the observation of children when administering KIDS, and expanding KIDS training for kindergarten teachers, administrators, support staff, and prekindergarten providers.

What can we take away from the findings?

The study’s results have several implications for the state, Illinois districts, and kindergarten teachers and the principals and staff who support them. The findings also can serve as a guide for other states that have adopted or are considering adopting a kindergarten entry assessment.

  • ISBE reports KIDS data across three developmental domains. Because the study found support for measures of two domains, the state may want to re-envision how it reports KIDS results.
  • If the skill gaps that the study found continue in future years, state and local education agencies may want to provide targeted supports and resources to reduce the gaps.
  • If the opinions and experiences that Illinois teachers and principals expressed in the study prove representative, state and local education agencies may want to consider ways to address the challenges reported.

Through MECERA, REL Midwest and ISBE are using the study’s findings to inform training for Illinois educators on how to observe children during developmentally appropriate instruction to collect KIDS data as well as training on how to use KIDS data to tailor instruction. In addition, REL Midwest and ISBE are providing training to support Illinois prekindergarten providers in interpreting and using KIDS data.

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Author Information

Joni Wackwitz Staff Picture

Joni Wackwitz

Senior Communications Specialist | REL Midwest


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