New assessment determines kindergarten readiness

By Heather Meade hmeade@civitasmedia.com

May 1, 2014

DARKE COUNTY - Implementing yet another new assessment tool for students can be a demanding part of the job for teachers and administration, but often the benefits of having more information to determine how best to teach students, outweigh the initial challenges that come with implementation, said Andrea Townsend, principal at Woodland Primary School in Greenville.

“Until you implement, it’s hard to really say how it’s going to turn out,” said Heather Crews, literacy specialist at Woodland Primary School. “We don’t really know what it will look like until it’s live.”

This is a statement which could be true of the implementation of any new assessment required by the state, Crews agreed; but in this case, educators are referring to an updated version of the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment - Literacy (KRA-L).

Teachers at Ohio schools are currently preparing to implement the new Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA), a more comprehensive look at the readiness of kindergarten students, which will give teachers a better idea of the level of their students on an individual basis, said Laura Bemus, assistant superintendent of Greenville City Schools.

“The old kindergarten assessment was really based on literacy, it only addressed language arts and reading readiness skills,” Bemus commented. “The new kindergarten assessment is much more comprehensive, and they’re very specific about the assessment window - first day of school through Nov. 1. Neither of these assessments is intended to keep children out of kindergarten. It’s always been to give teachers a snapshot of the student’s readiness level, so they know how to meet their needs.”

The new assessment has six components, Bemus explained: Social skills, math, science, social studies, language/literacy, and physical well-being/motor development. The language/literacy component is a piece of another initiative, the third grade reading guarantee, and it has to be done by Sept. 30, Bemus said; the other five components must be completed by Nov. 1.

It’s the first time the Ohio Department of Education will require an assessment with an observation component, said April Wilbur, Darke County Education Service Center (ESC), who is also in charge of training Darke County teachers how to utilize this assessment tool.

“I think that it’s important to know that this is not an assessment that’s going to be used to say your child isn’t ready for school; or you didn’t do the right things before they came to kindergarten,” Wilbur noted. “It’s not a gotcha thing, it’s designed to see how ready kids in Ohio are when they come to kindergarten, and give some data for kindergarten teachers to say ‘This is my class picture as a whole. I know, based on the standards, where they need to be.’ It gives an idea of where to begin to get them there.”

It’s a good tool for parents to receive information about their children’s readiness, as well, said Townsend. Parents who want to know what to expect can visit the Ohio Department of Education’s website, education.ohio.gov/parents where they can find checklists to prepare for pre-school and kindergarten, and learn more about other education topics.