Suburban schools begin measuring kindergarten readiness
Illinois school districts are beginning this school year gathering information on consistent measures of developmental readiness for all kindergartners.
Teachers must observe students playing and doing schoolwork and report performance data through the state-mandated Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS).
The state requires students to be measured on 14 developmental benchmarks within the first 40 days of attendance. The formative assessment measures knowledge in language, literacy, math, social and emotional development, and in skill-building competencies, such as curiosity, creativity and perseverance. Districts can gather data on additional measures and conduct additional rounds of observations.
Survey results will be part of the annual Illinois School Report Card and will help teachers better understand students' developmental needs and support long-term success.
The KIDS assessment aims to provide a picture of kindergarten readiness statewide and comprehensive development profiles of individual students. It conveys what skills, knowledge and behaviors each child should possess, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. KIDS has been piloted at select school districts since 2012, gathering information on more than 50,000 children from 380 school districts in five years.
West Chicago Elementary District 33 -- among the first pilot schools -- will begin its sixth year of administering KIDS this fall.
"We used to be very mastery-focused, like, 'Here's the skill you have to master,' " said Kristina Davis, assistant superintendent for learning. "But in kindergarten, every child comes in with a different experience, so now our focus is on each child's target, rather than a district target."
Elgin Area School District U-46 adopted the survey last year and has been gathering performance data for roughly 2,700 kindergarten students across 40 elementary schools enrolled in its full-day kindergarten program.
U-46 evaluated students using 21 measures three times during last school year.
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, said Peggy Ondera, U-46 director of early learning.
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, and 54 percent of students were reading at or above grade level.
Ultimately, the KIDS assessment data should allow teachers to identify and close achievement gaps.
"Children begin developing critical competencies and skills in the first five years of life," State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith said. "The path toward college and career readiness truly starts with the path toward kindergarten readiness. KIDS will help schools (and) families to bridge learning and connect supports for children in their critical early years."
Additional information is at isbe.net/KIDS.