A promising new measure of kindergarten readiness

BlogEarly ChildhoodFeb 14 2019

For years, states have sought a reliable way to measure the extent to which young children are on track to enter kindergarten, and to identify subgroups of children who might benefit from additional support or intervention in the pre-K years. A new pilot measure based on the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) may meet that need and fill a critical gap in policy-relevant early childhood data.

Child Trends researchers Kristin Anderson Moore, Katherine Paschall, and Kelly Murphy are working closely with HRSA’s Maternal Child Health Bureau (MCHB) to help the Bureau develop and refine this new National Outcome Measure of Healthy and Ready to Learn, using data from the National Survey of Children’s Health. The pilot measure seeks to capture the school readiness of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds at the state and national levels by adopting a whole child perspective, to include measures of physical health and motor development, self-regulation, social-emotional development, and early learning skills. Once the measure is finalized, decisionmakers (legislators, governors, early childhood administrators, educators, advocates, and families) will have a detailed picture of the school readiness of young children in their states, broken down by race/ethnicity, income, parental education, and other important factors.

The pilot Healthy and Ready to Learn measure has the potential to inform and strengthen services, programs, and policies to support young children and their families in the critical years prior to kindergarten entry. For example, the finalized measure will let decision makers know the percentages of children who are on track for kindergarten entry at ages 3, 4, and 5, and will identify subgroups of children whose kindergarten readiness could be boosted with additional supports in their early years. In essence, the measure will serve as an early warning system.

At Child Trends, we’re excited that this developing measure has the potential to answer the field’s long-sought questions about school readiness—and to provide that information, at the population level, years before children enter kindergarten. That said, the work is just beginning and we need help to make this measure as strong as it can be. We are currently working with HRSA and our partners at MayaTech to rigorously validate the measure. We must take the time to consider new and revised survey questions and confirm the measure’s accuracy before releasing it for states to use.

Gathering input from the early childhood and education fields is an important step in the validation process, particularly as we refine the measure and seek to better understand its utility. HRSA is inviting all interested parties to submit their thoughts and ideas. Please send input to MCHBreadytolearn@hrsa.gov. To learn more about the pilot measure, you can view this webinar, read our fact sheet, and subscribe to Child Trends enews to receive updates on the validation process (and our other great work).