What do you know about your Kindergarteners’ readiness skills when they enter your school?
Have you heard, over the past 3 years, Virginia has been working to expand measurement of kindergarteners’ readiness to assess not only learning in literacy (using PALS—as introduced in last month’s blog) but also self-regulation, social skills and math?
Our guest blogger for this month is Amanda Williford, a professor at UVA-CASTL who leads the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP).
She shares important tips on the Do’s and Don’ts of using VKRP data for leaders at every level of your system: teachers, assistant principals and principals, division leaders, and state-level leaders.
If you want more information on VKRP, please go to their website (www.vkrponline.org) –and feel free to add any questions/comments to our comments section.
This fall marks the 3rd year of the voluntary statewide roll out of the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP)—an initiative to expand our understanding of the early learning skills that young children display at the beginning of kindergarten. Almost half of all school divisions are now participating, including almost 20,000 students.
That’s a lot of data!
So, what’s next? Let’s make sure we use it wisely!
A recent Ounce of Prevention Fund report, “Uses and Misuses of Kindergarten Readiness Assessments,” provides helpful information about the Do’s and Don’ts for using kindergarten readiness assessment (KRA) data.
Aligned with these recommendations, VKRP data is designed to help school leaders ensure that every young child has the supports they need to be successful in school and life.
DO’s of VKRP Data Use
Teachers can use the data to:
- Meet a student where they are and help them learn the next set of skills
- Refer a student for additional assessment or services
- Have a conversation with a family member to support a child’s learning at home
School leaders can use the data to better understand incoming cohorts of students, informing decisions about individualizing professional development to teachers, deploying existing resources, and procuring additional supports by answering questions such as:
- How much variability is evident in readiness for incoming students?
- Is this variability similar or different across readiness skills (e.g., literacy vs. math)?
- Is the pattern of readiness similar or different across classrooms?
- How does our school’s data compare to similar schools within our division, or across Virginia?
Division leaders can use the data to:
- Look for variability within and across schools
- Align preschool, kindergarten, and elementary programming
- Create better transition practices
- Highlight the importance of developing students’ self-regulation and social skills
State leaders, advocates, and policy makers can use the data to:
- Identify statewide readiness gaps
- Understand variability from community to community to get a better picture of statewide needs
- Examine whether services prior to kindergarten contribute to improved readiness
- Examine data over time to identify patterns and trends across the state
It is appropriate and prudent to use VKRP data (and other sources of early childhood education information) to identify readiness gaps, track system-level trends, and inform effective allocation of education resources.
Statewide representative data tell us that on average, 34% of young children arrive to kindergarten in Virginia lacking foundational skills in the areas of reading, math, self-regulation, or social skills. In other words—as shared in the first VPI+ Administrator blog post, 1 in 3 children are “not ready”!
We need to know where the gaps are so we can meet the needs!
DON’T’s of VKRP Data Use
But, it would also be easy to misuse VKRP data. It is important to note that VKRP was not designed to be reliable within a high stakes accountability environment, and therefore is not well suited for use as a specific consequence to students, teachers or programs!
Rather, these data are primed to help key players in classrooms, schools, divisions, and government make data-informed decisions about how to best meet the needs of Virginia’s youngest students and invest strategically in early childhood initiatives.
The Bottom Line
Widespread participation in VKRP presents a valuable opportunity to inform conversations among Virginia stakeholders when designing early learning programs, aligning educational practices from PreK to third grade, and leveraging resources for maximum impact. For instance, having VKRP data in school divisions where VPI+ PreK expansion and improvement work is happening can answer the key question:
“Are children in our division showing up for Kindergarten MORE ready to learn?”
When we use data in the right ways (as Dr. Williford shares above), we should run toward the data and not away from it.