DECATUR – Studies have shown that a child's state of readiness for kindergarten can be an accurate predictor their success throughout their school years.

The Illinois State Board of Education has released the first-ever statewide snapshot of kindergarten readiness in Illinois, in which all reporting districts used the same assessment, and 81 percent of Illinois kindergartners were screened.

Of those, 24 percent met expectations in all three developmental areas — social and emotional development, language and literacy development, and math. Only 16 percent of low-income students are considered kindergarten-ready in all three areas, while 30 percent of kids who are not low-income are ready.

Statewide data summary is available at www.isbe.net/kids.

“It's interesting because one of the important things to note is the assessments were done during the first 40 days of kindergarten,” said Dani Craft, executive director of the Education Coalition of Macon County, which puts much of its focus on the topic of kindergarten readiness. “I would definitely think the numbers would be higher if assessments were also done during the last 40 days, and schools would have the option to reassess to see how they're progressing.”

This chart taken from KIDS assessment information provided by the Illinois State Board of Education shows kindergarten readiness results for Macon County schools. ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

Locally, Macon County children performed best in the area of social/emotional development, which Craft said is an area that has received a lot of attention in the past five years.

Kindergarten teachers throughout the area attended a special training with EdCo ahead of a Countdown to Kindergarten event in the schools to help ease the transition for the youngsters. 

“It validates the work we're doing in the community as a whole,” she said.

The assessment used is the Kindergarten Individual Developmental Survey, or KIDS, an observational tool first used statewide in fall 2017, and piloted in select schools for five years prior to that. Because the assessments are done by teacher observation, Craft said, it helps pinpoint areas in which children need more support and offers a chance for teachers and parents to be advocates for meeting those needs.

Craft also warned against putting too much weight on the first year's results. In looking at the numbers for Macon County schools, she said some of the numbers seem unrealistically low, and there are bound to be some glitches at first.

Sangamon Valley schools showed the highest levels of development in all three areas at 69 percent, with Argenta-Oreana second at 47 percent, while statewide 24 percent of kindergartners showed readiness in all three areas. Decatur kindergartners showed 20 percent readiness in all three areas.

State Superintendent Tony Smith called the first year of data collection a success.

“The data give families, teachers and communities a powerful tool to advocate for the resource and supports all children need,” he said in a statement. “We all have an urgent opportunity and responsibility to align state policies and investments with what children need for long-term academic and social success.”

Kindergarten readiness is often an indicator of whether a child will be at grade level progress in reading by third grade, Craft said, which is another important indicator of long-term academic success.

“If they're not ready for kindergarten, it will affect their ability to be ready for the third-grade reading marker, which is a predictor for academic success and dropout rates,” Craft said. “We want children ready, and parents and schools, to prepare them for that important reading marker they need to meet to have successful years in school and beyond.”

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter