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Washington’s Assessment of Kindergarteners’ Skills Shows Opportunity and Math Gaps

January 22nd, 2013 by Paul Nyhan


A new report on the skills of incoming kindergarteners in Washington state found more than two-thirds were at expected levels for physical abilities, but many fell short on math. It also showed opportunity gaps between different races and genders when children start school.


Overall, nearly 80 percent of kindergarten students showed typical physical development skills, such how to hold a pencil and throw a ball, according to the report from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. In math, only half, 52 percent, of new kindergarten students were at expected levels.


The new report also highlighted opportunity gaps between racial and gender groups. In literacy, 59 percent of Hispanic kindergarten students were at grade-appropriate levels, while 84 percent of white students were at that benchmark. There were also divides between African American/black students and white students in literacy, 79 percent and 84 percent respectively, and other gaps.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for data to help us move forward and that provide us with invaluable information to close the opportunity gap. We now have an unparalleled opportunity to engage families, early learning professionals, kindergarten teachers and policy makers in prioritizing our investments for children where they’re needed most,” Nina Auerbach, president and CEO of Thrive by Five Washington, said in a summary.

The assessment covered roughly a quarter of Washington’s kindergarten students and focused largely on students at all-day programs. (In Washington the highest priority for all-day kindergarten is among high-poverty schools, according to OSPI.) It is one of three main parts of Washington’s WaKIDS program; the other two focus on connecting with families of new kindergarten students and encouraging and improving cooperation among elementary and early learning educators.


Other overall findings on the percentage of students demonstrating characteristics of entering kindergarteners include:


  • Social Emotional Development: 74 percent
  • Literacy: 72 percent
  • Cognitive Development 71 percent
  • Language: 66 percent


In conjunction with the assessment, OSPI sent a report on WaKIDS to the state Legislature that includes recommendations to help implement the three-year-old program, which is a critical element of Washington’s Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant and the state’s Early Learning Plan.


The report’s recommendations include:


  • Allow schools to use up to five days at the beginning of the school year for purposes of the Family Connection.
  • The Legislature should provide an additional allocation of resources to school districts in the form of “WaKIDS implementation grants” that can be used for such purposes as:
    • Providing substitutes for releasing teachers to plan and administer WaKIDS …
  • OSPI should continue to take steps to reduce the amount of time it takes for kindergarten teachers to administer TS GOLD. Specifically, additional actions should be taken to reduce the time it takes to enter data …


“Recommendations of the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) Workgroup.” 1/13. (Recommendations start on page 6.)


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