Maryland children are entering kindergarten with far stronger set of academic, physical and social skills than children of a few short years ago, according to a new report by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).
“Children Entering School Ready to Learn—School Readiness Information for School Year 2010-2011,” a report by MSDE’s Division of Early Childhood Development, reveals steady progress across all demographic subgroups. Maryland students entering kindergarten fully prepared for learning increased by 3 percentage points from 2010 to 2011, rising to 81 percent. That is an increase of 32 percentage points since the baseline year of 2002.
“The importance of strong early childhood development has never been more apparent,” said Nancy S. Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools. “By providing our youngest learners with a solid footing before they enter kindergarten, we can expect big leaps as they move through school.”
The annual MSDE study reflects assessment information on kindergartners’ readiness levels in social and personal areas, language and literacy, mathematical thinking, scientific thinking, social studies, the arts, physical development, and health. Trained kindergarten teachers review work samples and observations in making their determination of readiness.
Kindergarten readiness has improved significantly since all early childhood programs were brought under the MSDE banner in 2005. Since the Division of Early Childhood Development was established six year ago, the number of accredited childcare programs has grown significantly and MSDE has established several quality initiatives to improve the early learning opportunities for all children.
Also significant has been the reduction in the achievement gap between students of different ethnicities. For example, African American children have made dramatic strides since the initial report, rising 39 percentage points overall and narrowing the gap with White and Asian peers. Improvement by Hispanic children also has been dramatic, increasing 31 percentage points.
The MSDE assessment of incoming kindergarten students, known as the Maryland Model for School Readiness (MMSR), found improvement across demographic categories in the percentage of students ready for kindergarten work. For example:
- School readiness levels for English Language Learners have increased 33 percentage points since 2002, rising to 68 percent deemed as “fully ready.”
- The improvement in school readiness for low-income children—students receiving free or reduced price meals—has jumped 39 percentage points since 2002, to 73 percent.
- The number of special education students considered fully ready for kindergarten improved 26 percentage points since 2002 to 56 percent.
Strong MMSR results also translate to better results in the Maryland School Assessment by the time students reach third grade. Children who enter kindergarten fully school-ready are far more likely to be proficient in both reading and math by Grade Three.
The MMSR study results continue to emphasize the critical importance of high-quality early learning opportunities. Children who emerged from structured early-care settings started school better prepared for learning than those who remained at home or in the homes of relatives, the research found. Children enrolled in public school pre-K programs (81 percent fully ready for kindergarten), child care centers (87 percent), and non-public nursery schools (92 percent) the year prior to kindergarten exhibited stronger school readiness levels than those who were at home or in informal care settings the year prior to kindergarten. There also were significant gains for children who were enrolled in Head Start Centers, whose readiness increased from 29 percent in 2001-2002 to 72 percent in 2010-2011.
Maryland’s annual school readiness report is the result of legislative action to gauge the progress on school readiness skills of incoming kindergartners. Each year, more than 2,000 kindergarten teachers use an age-appropriate portfolio-based assessment to evaluate their students’ performance on 30 indicators of learning in their classrooms during the first eight weeks of school. The assessment information in the report reflects scores for each of the seven domains of learning, such as literacy, math, and social skills, as well as the composite score of all domains.
MSDE is a national leader in the evaluation of early childhood learning, establishing an annual evaluation of what entering kindergartners know and are able to do.
The complete School Readiness report is available on the special MSDE website.