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Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school readiness

The Chicago Public Schools is about to debut a kindergarten readiness assessment tool to be taken by preschoolers.

The Chicago Public Schools is about to debut a kindergarten readiness assessment tool to be taken by preschoolers.

The goal is to help teachers and parents know where students need to improve as they make the transition from preschool to formal schooling. “There’s an abyss between preschool and kindergarten, so we’re trying to bridge that gap,” says Eilene Edejer, a senior research analyst in the CPS Office of Early Childhood Education.

However, CPS officials know that given deep concerns about standardized testing, especially for very young children, the initiative may not be entirely welcome.

Barbara Bowman, CPS head of early childhood education, says that while the tool sets minimum expectations for what preschool students should know, it is not a standardized test. “I think that when [teachers] actually are faced with having to do it, we’ll get some pushback,” she says.

The assessment covers a range of skills, from letter recognition to following directions.

 “I wouldn’t want to see a 3- and 4-year-old classroom focusing on letter recognition and sounds in order for kids to meet a standard,” says Kristin Ziemke Fastabend, a 1st-grade teacher at Burley Elementary. Doing so, she fears, might mean that students would miss out on important social-emotional skills that develop from other interactions, like learning to work together and delay gratification.

However, Fastabend says she is impressed that the assessment does look at the social-emotional capabilities of children.

Preschool teachers will get copies of the Kindergarten Readiness Tool by mid-April and give it to their students in May, Bowman says. The district will also make the assessment public, likely by posting it online and in public libraries.

Preschool teachers already use a checklist assessment, which they administer three times a year, but the new Kindergarten Readiness Tool is designed to be more accurate. It requires teachers to score a child’s performance on specific tasks instead of filling out a checklist from memory. (The old assessments will continue.)

Preschool teachers will be able to give results to parents, pinpointing activities they can practice with their child. And district officials hope the tool will be accessible and relevant to kindergarten teachers.

“Currently there isn’t any formal practice across the district for kindergarten teachers to receive information on children who attended a CPS preschool,” Edejer says.

The new readiness assessment consists of about eight activities, which Edejer estimates most preschoolers can complete in less than 20 minutes. From these activities, teachers can glean answers to about 25 questions.

Another six items cover social and emotional skills. Teachers are expected to answer those questions based on their background knowledge of a student. “The proof of some of the social-emotional pudding is in the things they’ve learned,” Bowman says, since social-emotional skills form the basis of a child’s ability to learn from their environment.

Preschool teachers will get a kit with manipulatives (materials like blocks or shapes), score sheets, materials, and directions. For reference, the district will also give them access to a video of someone administering the Kindergarten Readiness Tool.

Zio Perez, a Golden Apple winner and a preschool teacher at Nettelhorst Elementary, says, the screening will be a useful tool for parent-teacher conferences. “I will be able to have the manipulatives in front of me, and I’ll show [the parent] what happened,” she says. “It will give them ideas of what they can do at home.”

She hopes the tool will improve communication with kindergarten teachers. “There’s a huge disconnect between preschool land and the rest of the world,” Perez says.

But she  points out, preschool teachers will have little time to remedy any problems they discover. Administering the tool about a month earlier would give preschool teachers more chance to tailor their teaching. (Perez is a member of the Catalyst Chicago editorial advisory board.)

The district’s Kindergarten Readiness Tool will measure skills like the following:

Math

Counting

Simple sorting of objects

Simple addition

Knowledge of number value (for instance, showing a teacher four wooden blocks)

Literacy

Rhyming

Recognition of sounds and letters

Social-emotional learning

Following directions

How they get along with other children

Their ability to control their own behavior

24 comments

testing??? not teaching!! wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

i work at a school. i see k-2 teachers spening hours in the halways testing kids while the other 24 students sit and do worksheets..its horrible....the teachers have no choiceeee

its nutsssssssssssss

School of Ed Dean wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

When will the schools figure out that they need to be ready for the children that come to them? What will they do with the test results and to the children?

Jane wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

Most kindergarten teachers I've talked to say the problem is not that the kids who went to preschool are unprepared but that there are too many who haven't been to preschool at all, and this problem is about to get worse. Also, wouldn't it make more sense to bring the teaching/support skills up to K-3rd grades, ie, early childhood professional development, Developmentally Appropriate Practices, teaching aides, etc. that we get in preschool? I get so frustrated by ornate and extensive assessments we do in preschool that are replaced by simple number grades in kindergarten; by the fabulous professional development opportunities we get in preschool that kindergarten teachers never participate in; by the coaching we get in preschool by early childhood experts who never visit a kindergarten room. That's where the disconnect is - everything EC has gotten for us in preschool is cut off when our children move into elementary ed. and they suddenly have worksheets to fill out and must sit at tables all day.

DSP wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

I am a strong supporter of I-teache....this is assessement done daily, not testing, on meeting the state early learning standards for preschoolers and kindergarteners. It too focuse on social skills as well. When we are meeting standards children are ready for any /next step'!

K wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

As a CPS State Pre-K teacher I'm already mandated to complete several assessment tools for each of my students. Perhaps we should look at what's already happening and what makes sense developmentally and go from there rather than throwing the "test band aid" on every concern from central office.

Since Bowman et al is out of touch wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

they have no idea what is already being measured and how it is being measured. So much for Ron's performance management! Where is EACS performance? Where is their management?

Mary wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

Sounds like a high-stakes "readiness" test. Is the “readiness†testing scheme valid and reliable?

Parents and taxpayers - The insiders are working behind the curtain to create pre-k fear at the expense of young children.

“There’s an abyss between preschool and kindergarten, so we’re trying to bridge that gap,†says Eilene Edejer, a senior research analyst in the CPS Office of Early Childhood Education.â€

Following the money trail will lead to profiteers lining up for kickbacks as the “assessment†is commercialized.

Without full disclosure, accountability, and transparency, the CPS insiders cannot be trusted.

5th grade teacher wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

Great - more testing to justify that Pre-K is being cut.
Let's spend more money on stuff that is not needed. This
is just as bad as Scantron and Benchmark testing. Stop the
teaching so we can administer a test.

prek teacher wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

I am a Pre-K teacher in a CPS school (Preschool For All program). There are 20 students in AM and 20 in the PM class, each lasting 2.5 hours. I also have an assistant to maintain the classroom ratio of 1:10. @shame are you in a Head Start class?

OMG wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

3 year-olds should know simple arithmetic? This borders on child abuse and someone needs to call DCFS right now!!!! Stop the madness. Stand-up Pre-K teachers! Oh that's right - they've been threatened with lay-offs. If we do what they won't maybe Mr. Ron won't fire me. When does it stop?????????????????????????

Karen Sherwood wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

I am a high school English teacher in NYC, (in one of the many "failing" schools targeted by our mayor) and I just have to add one, somewhat snarky, comment. As long as we are entering a world of high stakes testing for pre-schoolers, don't we also need some high-stakes consequences? For example, for any child who "fails" the test, his/her parents should be held responsible for the cost of remedial schooling-- extra tax, a straight fee, or maybe even loss of custody. (Sort of like closing schools or firing an entire staff.) When will this madness cease! I agree that early childhood education is important and that the teachers should try to identify any learning difficulties as well as strengths, but in recent years testing has become more about punishing and less about helping. I can't wait to see where this goes.

Nina-nyc wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

Will the kids be ready for Kindergarten ? Will kindergarten be ready for the kids ? Honestly, I thought things here in NYC were messed up, with Universal PreK being the new Kindergarten and NYC Kindergarten being the new ungraded 1st-2nd grade.
Have our friends Barbara Bowman, her current and former colleagues at the Erikson Institute -- Sam Meisels -- what have you wrought ??? -- totally lost it ?? Did we not learn anything from the Head Start debacle a few years back ??
Yes, we should know many things about our PreK population -- and their social competence first, and all the academic benefits that come with that...I am sure Ed Ziegler must be cringing right now.

Cathy Puett Miller wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

I'd agree this is a good tool if it is used only to identify areas of age-appropriate development that fall outside a spectrum of normal development and allow for differences in learning. I see too many preschool teachers and administrators jumping on the "let's assess and assess and assess" to the point that we rob children of key instructional time. In teaching we must get away from this drive by the curricula and begin to get back to teaching what we need to teach (standards in this light are OK) but also teaching in an integrated, not an isolated instruction, way. In literacy I see this as an issue when I see preschool children with flashcards and computer programs but not delightful, delicious experiences with print and language. That's the foundation on which to build if we want children to come to the reading table ready and willing.

Math teacher wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

"3 year-olds should know simple arithmetic?"

YES!!! Children are capable of doing simple arithmetic with minimal effort. At just 2 years of age, a child can do simple division -- giving a small group of people equal portions of blocks, sticks, etc. We wait far too long to start teaching children the fundamentals to basic skills, then wonder why they are so far behind.

Naturally, all children develop differently. It is plausible (and quite likely) that a 3 year old girl will be more emotionally, mentally, and academically ready to learn than a 3 year old boy, or even another 3 year old girl!! Children are individuals and develop on their own time frames, too often children are labeled as LD because in kindergarten and 1st grade, they weren't ready to learn, but were pushed along with the group, thus falling behind.

However, is it cruel to expect a 3 year old to give you 3 blocks? No. It is actually a very normal expectation. Is it cruel to ask that same child to give you 2 more blocks, then ask how many blocks you have now? No. It only requires a child to know that 5 is not just a word, but also a physical representation.

Susan Styler wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

So what happens if they show NOT to be ready? Will they stay in pre-school? Will they put in remedial kindergarten?

Bernard wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

What is Barbara Bowman, one of my early heroes and the leading lights in early childhood education, doing presiding over this testing madness in kindergarten? Even worse, she is the one chosen by Huberman to announce the cutting of preschool programs to half-day. Is this how she has chosen to spend this part of her life? Sad.

ECE Supporter wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

I strongly support Kindergarten and Early Childhood Education efforts (although I think for cost-efficiency, the State of IL should give tax credits or supplement income/paid tuition/vouchers (whatever you want to call it) for pre-school/kindergarten instead of trying to invent the wheel).

However, for the life of me, as a high school teacher, I CANNOT understand why I would be paid more than a 1st grade teacher in many districts (I don't know about Chicago). Why do we wait until the kids are brainless teenagers to suddenly become involved in their lives? That was said with love, by the way. :-)

If a huge effort was put into reforming the way schools handle K-4th learning, we wouldn't have to worry about 37 kids in a high school classroom because all 37 would be able to read, write legibly, and do simple arithmetic!!! We wouldn't have to stop and re-teach foundation skills because the students' primary teachers were unable to teach the kids what a syllable is, or basic multiplication tables, or how to think before blurting out "I DONT GET IT!!!!11!!!1"

Instead, we wait until suddenly testing is upon us, then crack the whip and wonder why the kids respond in a sluggish manner. It is a shame. :-(

Shame on EACS wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

PreK student are in class less than 2.5 hours per day--plus, universal breakfast takes 20 minutes out of the time, there are 31 students in EACH 2.5 hour program. We are required to do many other assessments. So tell me, you non-teaching administrators in EACS, with this test ast 20 minutes EACH student, when do we get to teach? New flash--I wwith my parents ALL the time. If they refuse to work with their children at home, how can I make them do this? You are all so smart there....

chicago mom wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

I am totally against more assessment of preschool kids.
But on a side note @shame on eacs, it was my understanding that there are only 18 kids per one teacher and one assistant, not 31 kids. Unless you meant 31 total for morning and afternoon? No preschool for all I know in the city has 31 in it. If so, it is operating outside of IL law.

connie128 wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

I find this ridiculous. The Chicago Board of Education should spend more time getting high school students to school and learning the required curriculum. Turnaround schools are another gimmick to land-grab and avoid putting resources into the schools. What ever happened to the $750 million dollars of stimulus money given to CPS. No one is talking about this. Now CPS has another gimmick for our babies.

Anne wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

You have got to be kidding! Here is a program that is micro-managed to the point of ubsurdity. Teachers are constantly monitored and critiqued, thereby requiring an army of supervisors who will always find fault and create more hoops to jump through in order to justify their own jobs. They could save a fortune by eliminating this unnecessary cadre of nitpickers.

This is a program that prohibits displaying the alphabet, the calendar and use of any ditto sheets. They worry more about the placement of the furniture in the classroom and the number and type of blocks they have and whether the bins are perfectly labeled then they do about educating any child. Every minute of the day is dictated by the powers that be and staff is constantly hammered with the reminder that Pre-K is "played based" program. They are only allowed to work with the students for 15 minutes in "small group" activities; 15 minutes for story time; 15 minutes for circle time and basically the rest of their time is for "free choice" activities, which means simply playing.

Now these toddlers are going to be grilled to see if the know their alphabet and simple math? This is insane!

Re: kitty wrote 4 years 1 week ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

You really think that asking a 3 year old to give you "x" amount of blocks is child abuse? Seriously? What terrible expectations you have for children.

I don't think preschool needs to be turned into a learning sweatshop for 3 and 4 year olds, but the children can learn SOMETHING while they are there. If there is only going to be play time, why not call a spade a spade and relabel preschool as "day care"?

My family runs a private infant - 8 year old school. The parents don't send their preschool aged children to the school to have non-stop play time -- they expect learning to take place. There is recess, extra curricular activities (dance class, karate, PE, violin), and non-structured play time available. The children are allowed to develop at their own place, but with structure and educational support.

kitty wrote 4 years 1 week ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

I think the whole thing about kindergarten readiness is ridiculous. Young children should be able to play and be carefree during the "preschool" years as well as during kindergarten. In fact, kindergarten is now totally age inappropriate. Read what the report by Alliance for Childhood said about the "Crisis in Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School."

And for Math Teacher (I would assume you are not an early childhood education specialist) I would say even if a 3 year old can do simple math with blocks or sticks, it is better for a 3 year old to play in a creative way with them. It helps them with math in the future far more. Starting too early can impend the real important development in a young child. So I agree with the person who felt this was kin to child abuse. Children need to be able to just be children. Let them play while they can be carefree.

kitty wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

Ready for kindergarten? New tool will gauge children's school re

Please look up and read on the Alliance for Childhood web site about the Crisis in Kindergarten. There are many early child development experts who believe that formal education should not begin until a child is at least 6 or 7 years old and that child before this age learn best by play. They believe that play is a child's work. It does not mean they cannot learn to count or the alphabet, etc., it just means that the way kindergartens and preschools are bringing more formal education down to younger and younger children is really not age appropriate. It is becoming far more than just asking children to count out a few blocks at their own pace.

I do believe that children should be able to play and be carefree for as long as possible. There is important development they need to do before any formal academic education happens and this happens when they are allowed to play and explore their world freely. As I said, it is not that a child cannot learn and of course some are more ready than others, yet preschools are becoming much more academic than they really should be as are kindergartens. There is just too much stress put on children too early. It really can backfire by causing burnout and take away the natural love of learning. This is happening at even the 2 year old levels.

I remember the days when children were just allowed to be children and play. Preschool was unheard of when I was little. We did not have kindergarten either. I did not start first grade until I was almost 7, yet I have 3 degrees from a well known university. So it did not cause me any problems if I did not have someone asking me to count blocks so to speak. My mother did read to me and I knew how to count and the alphabet and could read a little before going to school. I observed and helped with the work on the farm. I remember our weekly trips to town and picking up an elderly widow who had no other way. And so many other activities, but mostly I played. I remember and cherish the childhood I had before going to school.

Personally, I counted steps with my child from the time she was able to practice walking up and down steps. I never sent her to preschool or kindergarten, but I was also a stay at home mom (I realize not all can do this.) This child knew her colors (primary, secondary, black, white, pink, brown and gray), most shapes, could count to 20 in English and to 10 in Spanish, the alphabet, site read a few words and many other things before she was 2 1/2 years old. She interacted nicely with children of all ages as well as adults. I really did not do any "teaching," she seemed to learn it naturally. Most of it came by reading to her - which she always wanted me to do - and just taking her outside and playing.

So what terrible expectations do you think I have for children now? Hopefully not the "unrealistic expectations" that many parents and politicians of today seem to have for their children. (Read some of David Elkind's articles and books for more on this topic.)

How do I see this as child abuse? First abuse does not have to be physical. There is emotional child abuse. These unrealistic expectations can be very stressful to little children. It can cause them anxiety and depression. It can lower their self-esteem and burst their own natural love of learning.

Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv, also is a good book to read though it deals with children of all ages. He talks about how important nature is to children's learning and well-being, too.

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