Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How Public Schools Use Kindergarten Entry Assessments

A new study finds that 73 percent of public schools offering kindergarten classes used kindergarten entry assessments, which measure children’s readiness in areas such as early language and literacy, motor skills, and socioemotional development. The study by Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northeast & Islands found that the most common purpose for using the assessments was to individualize instruction.

Members of the REL’s Early Childhood Education Research Alliance generated the idea for this study as a source of information as they implemented plans for statewide assessments. In particular, state administrators wanted to know why schools used kindergarten entry assessments, whether using them was associated with improved student outcomes in math and reading, and the extent to which schools administered the assessments for more than one purpose.

REL Northeast & Islands analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11. Schools of all types—large and small, urban and rural, serving lower and higher income communities—were equally likely to use kindergarten entry assessments. The most common purpose, cited by 93 percent of schools using the assessments, was to individualize instruction. And 80 percent of schools used them for multiple purposes, including identifying students who need additional testing and determining class placement.

The sample consisted of 9,370 kindergarten students attending 640 public schools. Schools that used KEAs were compared to schools that did not in terms of enrollment, student body demographics, and other characteristics. In addition, multilevel regression models were used to compare students' kindergarten spring assessment scores in early reading and mathematics at schools that did and did not report KEA use, after controlling for fall assessment scores, student demographics, and school characteristics.

Overall, 73 percent of public schools offering kindergarten classes reported that they used KEAs. Among schools using KEAs, 93 percent stated that individualizing instruction was one purpose, and 80 percent cited multiple purposes.

Schools' reported use of KEAs did not have a statistically significant relationship with students' early reading or mathematics achievement in spring of the kindergarten year after controlling for student and school characteristics.

The analysis found no evidence of an association between schools’ use of the assessments and student outcomes. Because the data do not distinguish among types of assessments or the ways they are implemented, more research is needed to better understand how kindergarten entry assessments may contribute to student learning.

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