The Challenge of Determining If Kids Are Ready for Kindergarten

School readiness is a core goal of teachers and parents, but those two simple words capture one of the most complex challenges in early learning, as experts struggle to define what it means and why it matters.

School readiness could cover everything from listening skills and social development to early literacy and even mathematics. In practice, Oregon officials are learning it’s not easy to measure, the Statesman-Journal reports in “Tracking Children’s Readiness for School Proves Complicated: State struggles with consistency in assessments.”

The story devotes a lot of space to Oregon’s various school readiness assessments and the idea that it remains a work in progress. It also highlights why school readiness matters: It can shape public policy, set priorities and help a child get a good or a bad start to school.

“It changes people’s perceptions. It can change a teacher’s perception of likely success in school. It can create parental anxiety. Worst of all, it can make a small student feel stigmatized and less capable,” (Samuel) Meisels, (president of the Erickson Institute, which focuses on early learning) said. “If any one of those consequences occur, based on a poorly designed test, it’s inexcusable to me.”

In Washington, the definition of school readiness surely will remain a major topic in the state’s still emerging comprehensive early learning plan. Congress will also confront the issue when lawmakers debate the core federal K-12 law, No Child Left Behind, maybe next year.

What do you think should define school readiness at this critical juncture in early learning? Do not limit yourself to existing terms. Let’s add some new thinking to this debate.

More Babies: The American Academy of Pediatrics reports U.S. births hit a record level in 2007 – more than 4.3 million babies were born – up one percent from the year before.

The report also found:

Teen births rose roughly one percent, running against a long-term decline.

Cesarean births were up two percent.

Infant mortality remained relatively stable, and the United States still ranks poorly in this critical area.