CPS releases results of first kindergarten-readiness assessment

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Chicago Public Schools has released results from the district’s first 
Kindergarten Readiness Tool assessment, administered to 17,000 students as 
they were leaving CPS-run preschool programs last May.

Chicago Public Schools has released results from the district’s first Kindergarten Readiness Tool assessment, administered to 17,000 students took as they were leaving CPS-run preschool programs last May.

The tool consists of a series of activities that students should be able to complete by the end of preschool in order to be ready for kindergarten the following fall. Overall, 56 percent of preschool students received relatively high scores on the assessment (a score of at least 70 points, out of a possible 93).

Perhaps predictably, middle-class preschoolers had higher scores on the assessment. Students in tuition-based preschool programs – which offer 10-hour days at a cost of about $10,000 a year – posted the highest scores: 81 percent received a score of at least 70. Students in child-parent center programs, located in lower-income neighborhoods, were the next-highest, at 63 percent. Head Start students came in at 52 percent, the lowest of any group.

According to the newsletter, students did well with writing their names, recognizing numbers, counting, and basic addition and subtraction of objects. The weakest points on the assessment were identifying and sounding out letters (areas that some early-childhood teachers thought too advanced for preschool students), identifying rhymes, and sorting objects by more than one characteristic (an early math skill). Newsletter with Kindergarten Readiness Results

The results will help CPS increase parent and teacher awareness of the skills children should have when they enter kindergarten, and assess the kind of professional development early childhood teachers need.

Kanoon Elementary Magnet School kindergarten teacher Ana Perez says that data from the assessment made it easier for her to prepare for class this fall.

Before the school year started, the school’s pre-kindergarten teacher handed her the results for the nine preschoolers who would transition into Perez’s class. “Getting these results cut a lot of my time assessing, because I already knew, off the bat, where my kids stood,” Perez notes.

In August, principals and teachers received letters telling them how to access the results

online, says Office of Early Childhood Education Senior Research Analyst Serah

Fatani. The office’s staff have also held presentations showing teachers how to access the data and read reports.

Even so, Perez didn’t realize that logging into the online system would have enabled her to see data from some of her other 15 students if they had attended program elsewhere in the city.

She was not alone. Several teachers contacted by Catalyst Chicago were not aware of the available data or, as one teacher put it, “tend not to look at records” because they want to come to their own conclusions about their students’ development.

Paula Cottone, deputy chief officer in the early childhood office, said in an email that CPS will survey kindergarten teachers to see how many used the data, and if necessary, offer teachers more training on how to use it.

The online system allows teachers to view classroom- or student-level data; see students’ responses to specific questions and the corresponding Illinois learning standard; and run reports to see how their students compare to averages for the school, area and district averages.

The follow-up that CPS had planned is also taking place. Outside assessors have been doing activities with a random sample of roughly 300 students to see what skills they lost over the summer. “We will also spot-check to see that preschool teachers are assessing accurately,” Cottone wrote.

In another effort to gauge the tool’s reliability, CPS is tracking the progress of a sample of kindergarten students through the school year and assessing their performance through scores on the district’s kindergarten report cards.

Next year’s version of the readiness tool will measure the same skill sets, says Serah Fatani, senior research analyst with the early childhood office.

Although some preschool teachers voiced concern about the assessment when it was introduced last year – particularly, that the literacy skills included were too high-level – Perez says she is pleased with the information.

“I liked (being able) to see which students were strong in phonemic awareness, letter naming,” she says, noting that it helped her assign the students to reading groups. “Kids should come in to kindergarten with at least some background in these skills, especially with the achievement gap.