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Is your child ready for kindergarten?

July 28th, 2014 by Chris Henry

As a follow-up to our story today on efforts to promote learning among preschool children, I share with you here the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills. This state-endorsed list (attached below) shows 22 skills that children should have mostly under their belts by the time they finish kindergarten.

Children are assessed in the fall (by October 31) through observation and looking at samples of students’ work. Schools that receive state funding for all-day kindergarten are required to to the WaKIDS assessment, which is used by teachers to figure out where individual students need help and by state and local policy makers, who study the aggregate data. Other schools can voluntarily participate in WaKIDS.

The state is phasing in fully-funded, all-day kindergarten, starting with the most impoverished schools. Because there are more schools added each year, you can’t compare data from one year to the next.

The assessment used by WaKIDS evaluates proficiency in 22 skills in six areas of learning: social and emotional, physical, language and cognitive development, literacy and math. Under social-emotional, for example, one question asks if the student “regulates own emotions and behaviors.” Under mathematics, you’ll find, “explores and describes spatial relationships and shapes.” Problem solving, the ability to carry on a conversation, identify letters, sounds and words … there’s a lot on the list. And, experts say, children entering kindergarten should have been working on these skills long before they’re enrolled in public school.

On the Kitsap Sun’s Facebook link to our story, “Districts start early to ready students for kindergarten,” there was a debate among readers about whether this push for early acquisition of skills is positive for children or just too much pressure.

While current policy on early childhood education (including the value of all-day kindergarten) remains open to debate, the importance of a richly stimulating environment during each developmental stage has been well documented, including by the Children’s Reading Foundation, a Kennewick organization that hosts the national Ready! for Kindergarten program. The program, in which South Kitsap, Bremerton and Central Kitsap take part, educates parents on ways to foster intellectual and social growth from birth on up.

The WaKIDS data from the 2013-2014 school year shows that 80 percent of the 38,443 kindergartners assessed already had physical skills that are “widely expected” by the end of kindergarten. In literacy, too, roughly 80 percent already had a good grasp. Social-emotional confidence and cognitive skills had been mostly mastered by about 75 percent. About 70 percent had good proficiency in language skills, but only 50 percent were end-of-kindergarten skilled in math.

One school official I talked to said kindergarten teachers must address the needs of children with a wide range of skills, from those who are able to do some things typical of an 8-year-old, while others are struggling at a 3-year-old level.

Let me repeat that these are skills tested on children at the beginning of the school year that experts say they should have fully mastered by the end of kindergarten.

If you are the parent of a child entering kindergarten, you may want to take a look at this list (below). The big take-away that I heard from teachers and early childhood experts while researching the story is that “each child develops at his or her own pace,” so don’t panic if they’re not hitting it out of the park in all categories. Read “Leo the Late Bloomer,” for a pick-me-up, if this is the case.

Finally, I’d love to hear how you take advantage of opportunities to foster learning in your preschooler, toddler or infant… what they call those “teachable moments.”
Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 6.31.05 PM

P.S. This is a picture of my son Alex, who turns 30 on Friday, proof that time flies. This photo is not available for copying or reproduction. Thank you.

WaKIDS Assessment

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