Testing Heartland kindergartner readiness

Updated: Aug. 15, 2019 at 4:30 PM CDT
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GOREVILLE, Ill. (KFVS) – As the school year approaches, many parents in the Heartland will be gearing their kids up for one of the most important days of their lives; their first day of kindergarten. But are they ready?

According to new data from the Illinois State Board of Education, they might not be.

Every year, kindergarten teachers from across the state take data for the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey. KIDS, for short.

Brandilyn Klope, a kindergarten teacher at Goreville Grade School, explained the process of how it’s done.

“It’s kind of like an assessment, but not with scores,” she said. “It’s not us testing with a pencil. It’s something where I observe their skills, knowledge, and their behaviors.”

Klope explained that the survey takes place over the first 40 days of school. She looks for tendencies in her students from three different areas; social and emotional development, language skills and math skills.

When judging a child’s language and math skills, Klope said she is mostly looking for fundamental basics.

For reading, she looks for things like children reading words from left to right and starting at the right part of a page. In math, she said she tests counting and simple numbers skills during activities.

Social and emotional development is a little bit different to observe, but is just as crucial as the other areas, according to Klope.

“Self-regulation is what’s almost most important to me in those first 40 days,” she said, “I want to know that they have those skills they need to talk with peers, with staff, ask to go to the bathroom when needed.”

Based on the data in the survey, teachers found that only 26% of kindergartners in the 2018-2019 school year were considered “on-track” in all three developmental areas. Seventeen percent were considered ready in two-third of the areas, 18% in one-third of the areas, and 39% of kindergartners weren’t considered ready for kindergarten in any of them.

However, Klope said it’s not as bad as it sounds. Remember, the survey is taken the first 40 days of the year, so there’s a lot of school after that.

“Then I really know where to target teach,” Klope said, “I know where to go in and help those children. So I honestly believe that by the end of the year, most of my students are first-grade ready.”

This data does still show some trends that Klope feels could be given a closer look. Mainly, access to early education programs in the state. Which she thinks would help in the long-term.

“That’s not technically saying that our early childhood programs are failing, it maybe means that there’s not enough available,” she said, “if we have children kindergarten ready, we’re going to have children very ready for first grade, very ready for second, and that will in turn help in high school and so forth.”

To back up her claim, at her school, she said they have focused on early childhood programs in recent years. All kindergarten students were part of KIDS data at Goreville Grade School last year and Klope said 61% of them were considered “kindergarten-ready.”

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