Kindergarten Readiness Assessments (KRA) Across the Nation
Now more than ever, researchers in the areas of early childhood and elementary education are better understanding that high-quality learning experiences are critically important for helping children develop and be successful in school.
The Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP) is an initiative with the mission to provide more comprehensive kindergarten readiness data to teachers, administrators, and policy makers in Virginia. While Virginia has been successfully measuring children's readiness in the area of literacy for many years using PALS, it is now using multi-dimensional measures that partner with PALS to also include a focus on mathematics, social skills, and self-regulation.
With VKRP, Virginia joins 43 other states across the nation that are piloting or broadly using a multi-dimensional Kindergarten Readiness Assessment.
Readiness data are often used by schools to help teachers individualize instruction with the aim of closing early achievement and opportunity gaps.
A Focus on Four Key Domains
Research is clear that in addition to strong literacy skills, children also benefit from having strong mathematics, self-regulation, and social skills.
Kindergarten is the perfect time for young students to learn about mathematics, and early exposure to this domain is critical. In fact, a child's early understanding of mathematical concepts is one of the strongest predictors of later academic success. These skills are essential even beyond the classroom. According to the US Department of Education, jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are projected to grow rapidly over the next decade. Despite these known benefits, early exposure to mathematics concepts such as numeracy, operations, geometry, and patterning varies widely among children as they enter kindergarten. For example, large-scale national studies show that only 8% of the preschool classroom day is spent on math. VKRP measures a student's early understanding of mathematics, so teachers can work to support and improve those skills throughout the year.
Self-regulation, the ability to control one's own emotions, behavior, and attention, is an aspect of development that is foundational to learning. Children who are able to regulate themselves more successfully perform better in school – both academically, in areas like reading and mathematics, as well as socially, with their classmates and teachers. In early childhood, a child's ability to regulate is first guided by external regulation, such as a teacher providing cues and prompts to help a student remember what to do. Over time, through ongoing opportunities to practice these skills, children begin to internalize them, learning how to stay focused and to persist during challenging tasks. This, in turn, leads to greater learning opportunities. VKRP measures a student's self-regulation skills using a short rating scale completed by the teacher.
Children's social skills, including their ability to cooperate and form relationships with adults and peers, are a cornerstone to their well-being, learning, and success in school. Students rely on their teachers and other adults to help navigate the demands of school. Students often need to share and cooperate with each other as they engage in learning activities, and young students often need teacher support to do this. VKRP measures a student's social skills in the fall and spring using a short rating scale completed by the teacher.
Early literacy skills are crucial for later reading success. In early childhood, children are learning about letters, books, and print and building their phonological awareness. These are essential building blocks for learning to read. VKRP works in collaboration with Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) to integrate and provide information about kindergarten students' literacy skills with their mathematics, self-regulation, and social skills.