U-46 sees strides with full-day kindergarten
Elgin schools officials got a glimpse Monday night at how students performed last school year in full-day kindergarten classrooms.
Officials at the school board meeting released the performance data for roughly 2,700 students across 40 elementary schools enrolled in Elgin Area School District U-46's full-day program, which debuted districtwide last school year.
U-46 evaluated students using 21 measures -- seven more than the state requires -- three times during last school year.
"For each of those measures there is a rating rubric," said Peggy Ondera, U-46 director of early learning. "Teachers rate students based on what those students demonstrate they have mastered."
Across all benchmarks, officials saw a decrease in students performing below expectations and an increase in performance at or above grade-level expectations by the end of the school year.
"Fifty-four percent of our students are reading at or above grade level, and that is an increase in what we have seen in years past," Ondera said.
However, only 48 percent of kindergartners who previously attended U-46 preschool met the kindergarten readiness benchmark for reading -- being able to identify 40 upper/lowercase letters. The goal was 66 percent.
"We did not meet this target in 2016," Ondera said. "While all preschool students may not have reached that 40-letter benchmark ... we still are making significant student growth in letter identification."
This is the first time U-46 has collected performance data through the state-mandated Kindergarten Individual Development Survey assessment for students in the full-day program, Ondera told the school board Monday night.
All school districts are required to collect performance data for students in kindergarten starting the 2017-18 school year.
"So we were actually ahead of the game by implementing it last year," Ondera said.
The state requires students to be measured on 14 developmental benchmarks. The KIDS assessment is aimed at providing a picture of kindergarten readiness statewide and comprehensive development profiles of individual students. It conveys what skills, knowledge and behaviors each child should possess, per the Illinois State Board of Education.
The school board also reviewed the results of an end-of-year survey of parents and teachers.
The response rate of kindergarten parents was lower than expected -- 21 percent or 561 parents. The demographics also were not representative of the district, with fewer low-income and minority parents participating despite the survey being available in English and Spanish, said Brian Lindholm, U-46 professional development and project manager.
"With a survey this size we really need to communicate as much as we can in advance," he said.
Officials said they still are analyzing the KIDS assessment data and will be working with first-grade teachers on how to use the data to determine where students are and build on that momentum going forward.
"What we are seeing from teachers, as well as the scores, is students are coming out of full-day kindergarten much farther along than what they have been in the past and so we want to make sure that we continue to move them forward," Ondera said.
Ultimately, the data should allow teachers to identify and close achievement gaps starting in kindergarten, she added.
Officials plan to track this first group of full-day kindergarten students throughout their academic careers to measure their performance and growth.