Only about half of Kentucky students entering kindergarten for the 2015-16 academic year were ready, according to Kindergarten Readiness Screener data released Wednesday by the Kentucky Department of Education.
“Unfortunately, not all children have the same opportunities to develop and learn before they enter school,” Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said in a statement. “The reality is that poverty has a big impact on education in Kentucky. It is a reality that puts children at a disadvantage when they enter school and one that we must address from day one.”
Nearly 64 percent of Kentucky students entering kindergarten this year qualified for free or reduced-price meals, state education officials said in a news release.
This is the third year that the Kindergarten Readiness Screener has been given statewide to all kindergarten students. The percentage of those who were ready has stayed about the same: 49.0 in 2013-14, 50.0 in 2014-15 and 50.1 in 2015-16. Teachers gave a test to 46,789 students in all 173 school districts at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year. Students were asked their name and age, to recite the alphabet and count to 30, among other questions.
The percentage of students deemed ready for kindergarten in Fayette County in 2015-16 was 54.6 percent.
Poverty could also be a factor in kindergarten readiness in Fayette County.
At Harrison Elementary School, where 93.2 percent of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, only 10.6 percent of the kindergarten students were deemed ready for kindergarten.
At Cassidy Elementary, where 32.5 percent of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, 90.7 percent of the students were found to be ready for kindergarten.
“We cannot let the opportunity gap determine a student’s future,” Pruitt said. “That’s why this data is so important. It provides kindergarten teachers with key information early in the school year that they can use to guide instruction and provide targeted support and interventions aimed at closing learning gaps before they have a chance to widen.”
The screener provides a snapshot of student readiness in areas that include academic/cognitive, language development, physical development, and social-emotional. Performing at a certain level is not a requirement to enter kindergarten.
The results were discussed at Wednesday’s Kentucky Board of Education meeting in Frankfort.
Associate Education Commissioner Amanda Ellis told state school board members that the data showed “there’s a desperate need for that early intensive intervention for children through exposure of basic skills and building their cognitive ability.”
In one effort to increase kindergarten readiness, the Kentucky Department of Education is asking the 2016 General Assembly to increase the number of 4-year-olds served in public preschools, with an additional $73.3 million in each year of the biennium. The projected number of additional 4-year-olds served would be 15,653.