Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

The more ready Minnesota children are to succeed in kindergarten, the better they tend to perform on the state’s assessments of reading and math in third grade, according to a recent study “Assessing the Validity of Minnesota School Readiness Indicators.”

Using 32 indicators in five domains, Minnesota aims to have all children enter kindergarten school-ready by 2020. Since 2002, it has used the Minnesota Work Sampling System Kindergarten Entry Developmental Checklist (MWSS) on a sample of 5-10% of entering kindergartners to assess children’s progress in personal and social development, language and literacy, mathematical thinking, the arts, and physical development and health. Of the 25 states that collect school readiness data, Minnesota is the only one that does not collect information on all or almost all incoming kindergartners, the report notes.

After controlling for income, race/ethnicity, parent education, gender, and special education status in kindergarten, the Minnesota report finds that children who were proficient on the kindergarten entry assessment were two to three times more likely to score proficient or higher on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment in reading and math in third grade than children who were not proficient on the MWSS in kindergarten.

The MWSS indicators are aligned with the Minnesota Early Childhood Indicators or Progress and with the state’s K-12 Academic Standards.

“Kindergarten teachers are trained, either in-person (one full day of training) or on-line (approximately three hours), to assess children’s proficiency using the MWSS,” the report states. “During the first eight weeks of school kindergarteners are observed by their teachers in the classroom environment. At the end of the eight weeks, teachers rate children as ‘Proficient,’ ‘In Process’ or ‘Not Yet’ on each indicator…. Using a new overall proficiency standard of attainment of 75% or more of the total points across all 32 items, 53% of kindergartners demonstrated school-ready proficiency [in 2009]. This and other proficiency rates are unchanged since 2007.”

One of the report’s recommendations is to collect school-readiness data on all incoming kindergartners in Minnesota, instead of the current small sample. “Collecting data on all children,” the report states, “would allow the identification of children who are not school ready and the specific problem domain(s) in order to more specifically target academic interventions.”

(Post script. Massachusetts is in the process of implementing a pilot Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment in two dozen districts.)