Kindergarten is a pivotal year for kids and families. Leading up to the big send-off, many parents feel tremendous pressure and spend countless hours worrying about where their child will go to school, if they are making the best educational choices for their family and how they will juggle a new schedule.
Meanwhile, kindergarten students transition from their early childhood environment—whether it’s a childcare center, preschool or at home—to a more structured approach to learning in the classroom with new classmates, a new teacher and often a new school. As families experience this educational milestone, it is critical to ensure that every child entering kindergarten is ready to learn.
A young child’s development in language and literacy, math, social and emotional learning, and skills such as curiosity, creativity, and perseverance, are predictors of a child’s long-term success. Understanding kindergarten students’ strengths in these areas as they begin their “formal” educational journey allows teachers and families to build a strong foundation for children to learn and grow through school.
This year, for the first time in Illinois, all teachers in public and charter schools are required to use a new tool called the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) to observe and document students’ development in four domains—Approaches to Learning and Self-Regulation, Social and Emotional Development, Language and Literacy Development and Math. KIDS is based on observation, meaning teachers will collect information while students are going about their daily routines of learning and playing. (Chances are that students in the classroom won’t even notice what their teachers are doing!)
KIDS will provide the state and districts with consistent and comprehensive data on how well students are prepared to learn upon arriving to kindergarten. Ideally, teachers will use information from KIDS to guide conversations with parents and families about their own child’s needs to ensure instruction throughout kindergarten is developmentally appropriate for all children in the class. KIDS also will connect Illinois to a national movement to deepen understanding of children’s development at the state level.
Having this information will the allow state and districts to:
- Better understand how educators and communities can best collaborate across grade levels—from early childhood through elementary school;
- Establish stronger partnerships with schools and families to support individual children’s growth and development in-school and at-home;
- Inform policymakers on the most effective ways to allocate resources to best support all kids and communities across the state.
Prior to KIDS, the first evaluation of student learning was typically in third grade when they are required to take a state-mandated standardized test. While test scores are a significant input into evaluating a student’s overall skills and abilities, they do not consider other areas of development, including social and emotional, that are key to lifelong success in school and the workplace. Evidence increasingly suggests that the early years may be the most important time for children to acquire proficiencies in these areas.
Whether you have a child approaching kindergarten or is in kindergarten, it is important to support your child’s learning and development at home. You can find a toolkit including suggested activities and resources to support family engagement in the key learning domains at https://www.isbe.net/Pages/KIDS_Parents_Families.aspx.
As KIDS enters the second year of implementation, advocates and educators hope that the initiative brings more awareness, focus and resources on the importance of kindergarten readiness among communities and policymakers and deepens the commitment across the state to ensuring every Illinois child arrives at kindergarten ready to learn.