RD358 - Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program Status Report – October 1, 2020

Executive Summary:

More than 90,000 children enter kindergarten each year in Virginia. All of these children, regardless of background or zip code, enter through school doors, often with new backpacks and supplies, excited to learn, interact with teachers, and make new friends. All are capable of entering kindergarten ready, yet too many do not know their letters, numbers, nor how to successfully interact in a classroom setting.

The Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP) builds a more comprehensive understanding of school readiness and success in Virginia. As an assessment system of children’s early learning skills, VKRP adds screening measures of mathematics, self-regulation, and social skills to complement Virginia's statewide assessment of literacy skills through PALS. VKRP is designed to provide detailed, actionable information to guide decisions at various levels before and after kindergarten entry to support student learning.

This report provides a status update on VKRP and summarizes the VKRP data from the fall of 2019. The fall 2019 assessment term was the first time statewide kindergarten readiness data was collected from all school divisions in the Commonwealth of Virginia per legislation in Chapter 854, Budget Item of the General Assembly. Readiness data in fall 2019 was gathered from 132 divisions—1,106 schools, 5,021 classrooms, and 91,943 kindergarten students throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting closures of Virginia schools, teachers were unable to assess students in the spring of 2020. Therefore, spring VKRP data were not collected.

Key Findings

• In the fall of 2019, statewide data indicate that 44% (37,587) of Virginia students entered kindergarten behind in one or more key readiness areas of literacy, math, selfregulation, and/or social skills. There is tremendous variability across divisions and across subgroups in readiness rates for kindergarten students.

• For students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the numbers are even more concerning; 56% entered kindergarten lacking important skills in one or more key readiness areas, meaning they started well behind their more advantaged peers.

• Children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who participated in the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) were more likely to arrive to kindergarten prepared (53% “ready") compared to children lacking any preschool experience (32% “not ready").

• There was significant variability in the readiness rates across ethnic groups and race. Hispanic, Black, and American Indian/Alaska Native students evidenced lower readiness skills at kindergarten entry (58% “not ready", 53% “not ready", and 49% “not ready", respectively) compared to their White peers (37% “not ready").

• There were significant differences in the readiness rates of students with disabilities (SWD, 66% “not ready") and English Language Learners (ELL, 64% “not ready") students when compared to kindergarten students without these designations (42% “not ready" and 41% “not ready", respectively).

• Male students are more likely to be categorized as “not ready" (50%) than female students (37%) both overall and within each of the separate learning areas.

• Younger students were more likely to be categorized as “not ready" compared to older students (53% “not ready" in the youngest quartile of students versus 37% “not ready" for the oldest quartile).

A prekindergarten version of VKRP was developed and piloted in the fall of 2019 with participation from 147 classrooms spread across 45 programs within 20 divisions who volunteered to participate. Preschool teachers administered the math assessment to 1,041 prekindergarten children and assessed 2,246 children on their self-regulation and social skills.

For the 2020-21 school year, VDOE and UVA-CASTL are providing additional guidance and support to school divisions to complete fall and spring VKRP assessments, considering the various and shifting scenarios of instruction (e.g., in person, virtual including synchronous and asynchronous, hybrid, etc.) occurring this year given the COVID-19 pandemic. It remains a requirement for divisions to ensure that kindergarten students are assessed using VKRP and no waivers are being granted at the division level. However, it is anticipated that fewer kindergarten students will be assessed across all learning domains (math, literacy via PALS, self-regulation, and social skills) this year. For example, the math assessment is an in-person assessment for which some students will be exempted (i.e. parents are unable to bring student in for in-person assessment or divisions not conducting any in-person assessments of students). However, readiness data is critical, especially this year, to understand the pandemic’s impact on Virginia kindergarteners. In order to gather additional data on the impact of COVID-19 on our kindergarten students’ well-being, items have been added to the self-regulation and social skills portion of the VKRP assessment system to better understand students’ social-emotional well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The VKRP team is also expanding access to the newly developed VKRP prekindergarten assessment system with 5 additional school divisions requesting to use these assessments, bringing the total to 13 divisions participating in all of the assessments of the preschool version of VKRP during the academic 2020-2021 school year (math, self-regulation, social skills, and literacy via PALS). Additionally, 23 VPI programs will be participating in the Child Behavior Rating Scale (CBRS) only portions of preschool VKRP to better assess the social-emotional functioning of their preschool students. In total, 36 preschool programs will assess the social-emotional functioning of their prekindergarten students.