As the nation’s educators prepare for the common core alignment and officials work on new testing and measurement protocols, they are also concerned with the nation’s ability to ready young students for formal education. One state taking comprehensive measures to monitor school readiness levels of their kindergarteners is Oregon.
In fact, every year, each Kindergarten student takes a 15-minute test with their teacher to determine early literacy, early math and approaches to learning. Students are not penalized or prevented from entering kindergarten if they do not perform well, the state just wants to know is school readiness on the rise, in decline or maintaining.
Kindergartner Abby Wilch steadily recited letters shown in a light blue assessment booklet, unfazed by seconds left on the clock.
She sounded out letters, subtracted stars, counted gray boxes and added circles.
“Choose your answer,” her teacher, Ciara Nielsen, at Kalapuya Elementary School told Abby before turning the page.
The 5-year-old breezed through most of the questions, stumbling only on a few that asked her to identify a missing number in a sequence.
Thousands of Oregon kindergartners are participating in a new statewide assessment this year expected to help education officials, teachers and parents gauge how prepared children are to learn as they take their first steps in the school system.
There were more than 42,600 kindergarten students in Oregon public schools last year, according to the state Department of Education.
The assessment, which is given during the first six weeks of school, is made up of three components — early literacy, early math and approaches to learning. For English Language Learners who speak Spanish, there’s also a section that asks them to identify the syllable sounds of their native language.
Measuring a students’ ability to complete tasks such as reading letters and counting is not new to Oregon kindergarten teachers.
But until this year there wasn’t a uniform assessment that all kindergartners statewide were required to take.
“It provides that snapshot of development in that first six weeks of kindergarten,” said Kara Williams, an early childhood education and kindergarten specialist for the Department of Education.
Students who don’t do well on the assessment, which takes about 15 minutes, won’t be prevented from entering kindergarten.
Lawmakers in 2012 passed a bill that directed the agency along with the Early Learning Council to develop the statewide kindergarten assessment.
Uniform data on kindergarten readiness is expected to help state education officials answer questions about whether children are arriving prepared for kindergarten, if school readiness is improving or declining, what achievement gaps exists, and how they should go about improving early learning.