School readiness refers to a child's ability to start kindergarten ready to learn, based on his/her cognitive, social, behavioral, and physical development. Indicators on kidsdata.org are determined from kindergarten teachers' observations of their incoming students. Using a 1-4 scale (1=not yet, 2=beginning, 3=in progress, 4=proficient), teachers assess students on 20 specific skills, ranging from general coordination on the playground, to playing cooperatively, to recognizing letters of the alphabet. Individual students' scores are averaged, and factors such as the number of days between the start of school and the observation date, the type of classroom, teacher expectations, child's age, are taken into account.
Teacher assessments of kindergarten students are based on two different frameworks, both of which are offered through kidsdata.org: the National Education Goals Panel's (NEGP) 5 Dimensions of Development, which was used for local assessments during 2001-2005; and the Four Basic Building Blocks to School Readiness, which was developed specifically for San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and began to be used in 2005. Both frameworks assess the same 20 skills, but group them differently.
The Local Framework: Basic Building Blocks to School Readiness
1) Self-Care & Motor Skills: The ability to take care of one's basic needs with fine and gross motor coordination.
2) Self-Regulation: Basic self-regulatory abilities, such as controlling impulses, staying focused, and working cooperatively.
3) Social Expression: An understanding of basic social norms and behavior (e.g., appropriately expressing needs and appropriately relating to adults).
4) Kindergarten Academics: All skills that children are explicitly taught either in kindergarten (e.g., recognizing rhyming words), at home, or in early child care settings.
The National Framework: NEGP's 5 Dimensions of Development
In 1995, the NEGP defined school readiness and conceptualized five dimensions of development critical to a child's readiness for school:
1) Physical Well Being and Motor Development covers fine and gross motor coordination and the ability to perform basic self-care tasks.
2) Social/Emotional Development combines two interrelated components affecting children's behavioral health and learning. Social development refers to children's ability to interact with others and their capacity for self-regulation. Emotional development includes children's perceptions of themselves, their abilities to understand the feelings of other people, and their interpretation and expression of their own feelings
3) Approaches Toward Learning refers to children's inclination to use skills and knowledge. Key components include enthusiasm, curiosity, and persistence.
4) Communication/Language Usage includes communication and emergent literacy. Communication includes listening, speaking, and vocabulary. Emergent literacy includes print awareness, story sense, early writing, and the connection of letters to sounds.
5) Cognition and General Knowledge refers to thinking and problem-solving, as well as knowledge about particular objects and the way the world works. Mathematical knowledge, abstract thought, and imagination are included.
Source for this narrative:
Applied Survey Research. (2006). Are children ready for school? Assessment of Kindergarten readiness in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Retrieved from: http://www.researchconnections.org/childcare/resources/12549?author=Applied+Survey+Research
Starting school ready to learn helps ensure that a child will benefit from the school environment and available learning opportunities. Children who are not ready for school need extra support to catch up and keep up with their peers; otherwise, they tend to fall further behind over time.
Policymakers, educators, funders, researchers, the media, and caregivers have become increasingly interested in school readiness over the past decade. School readiness has been adopted as a focus by numerous communities, in recognition of the fact that many young children do not have access to the kinds of experiences that will help them to be ready for school. At the national level, the National Education Goals Panel (NEGP) and the No Child Left Behind Act affirm the importance of school readiness, as does the California Master Plan for Education at the state level. The NEGP framework has been adopted by the state's First 5 Commission as part of its School Readiness Initiative.
See below for links to research and more information about school readiness.
School readiness, early education, and child care are greatly affected by public policy.
Policymakers can help ensure that high-quality child care is accessible
and affordable to families that need it, and that early childhood
programs are structured to help children start kindergarten ready to
learn. Child care can be particularly inaccessible to families with infants and to those who struggle
to pay for care but do not receive public subsidies. (1, 2) As California prepares to shift the kindergarten entry
age (per the Kindergarten Readiness Act),
policymakers face new opportunities and challenges in developing
kindergarten readiness programs for pre-K students with fall birthdays.
According to research and subject experts, policies that could improve school readiness and child care include:
- Providing high-quality, publicly
funded pre-kindergarten programs (6, 7), implementing the Kindergarten
Readiness Act (providing for transitional kindergarten for children with
birthdays between the new and old kindergarten entry date cut-off), and
improving alignment of early learning/preschool guidelines and
standards with kindergarten and the early grades (3, 8)
- Increasing funding and setting standards to boost the wages and quality of child care and early learning providers (3, 8)
- Supporting accessible, high-quality, and research-based
professional development for early childhood educators that allows for
effective implementation and use (4, 5)
- Creating incentives to increase the supply of high-quality care
for infants (2, 8) and making subsidies more available to the working
For more policy ideas and research about early care and education and transitional kindergarten, visit Zero to Three, Preschool California, California Early Learning Advisory Council, the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network, and see reports from the RAND California Preschool Study.
Sources for this narrative:
- California Legislative Analysts’ Office. (2011). The 2011-12 budget: Child care and development. Retrieved from: http://www.lao.ca.gov/analysis/2011/education/child_care_012411.aspx
- California Child Care Resource & Referral Network. (2011). 2011 California child care portfolio. Retrieved from: http://www.rrnetwork.org/rr-research-in-action/network-resources-publications/
- Barnett, W. S. (2003). Low wages = Low quality: Solving the real preschool teacher crisis. National Institute for Early Education Research. Retrieved from: http://nieer.org/publications/policy-matters-policy-briefs/policy-brief-low-wages-low-quality-solving-real-preschool
- Zaslow, M., et al. (2004). The role of professional development in creating high quality preschool education. ChildTrends. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/Files//Child_Trends-2005_09_09_SP_PreTeachers.pdf
- Sheridan, S. M., et al. (2009). Professional development in early childhood programs: Process issues and research needs. Early Education and Development. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2756772/pdf/nihms117353.pdf
- Barnett, W. S., & Jung, K. (2007). Effects of five state prekindergarten programs on early learning. National Institute for Early Education Research. Retrieved from: http://nieer.org/pdf/MultiState1007.pdf
- O’Brien, E. M., & Dervarics, C. (2007). Prekindergarten: What the research shows. Center for Public Education. Retrieved from: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Pre-kindergarten/Pre-Kindergarten/Pre-kindergarten-What-the-research-shows.html
- Demma, R. (2010). Building ready states: A Governor’s guide to supporting a comprehensive, high quality early childhood state system. National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices. Retrieved from: http://www.nga.org/cms/home/nga-center-for-best-practices/center-publications/page-edu-publications/col2-content/main-content-list/building-ready-states-a-governor.html
In 2008, Alameda County County kindergarteners had an average overall readiness score of 3.2, San Mateo had an average overall score of 3.4, and Santa Clara County had an average score of 3.3 (1=not yet, 2=beginning, 3=in progress, 4=proficient). A 2007 assessment of San Francisco County kindergarteners showed an average overall readiness score of 3.3. In all counties surveyed, children scored highest in the area of self-care and motor skills. Scores in self-regulation and kindergarten academics tended to be lowest. Earlier assessments showed that children from low-income families and children who did not attend preschool had lower school readiness scores.