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More Md. Kindergartners 'School-Ready'

Yesterday, the Maryland State Department of Education released Getting Ready, the state's 10th annual report on school readiness among kindergartners. Since implementation of the state's school readiness assessment began in 2001-02, the state has seen the number of kindergartners deemed "school-ready" skyrocket, from 49 percent to 81 percent. Kindergartners from low-income families and African-American kindergartners saw similarly large gains over the decade.

The state's assessment instrument, the Maryland Model of School Readiness, is not a standardized test; rather, it requires teachers to observe children and their work products to determine their school readiness in seven domains: language and literacy, math, science, social studies, the arts, physical development, and social and personal development. Teachers are trained both to assess children's school readiness and to use information from their assessments to fine-tune classroom curriculum to meet children's needs. Among other factors, the report credits full-day pre-K with helping boost children's readiness for school.

Through an email exchange with Rolf Grafwallner, Maryland's deputy state superintendent for early childhood development, I learned a bit more about the factors that could be fueling gains in school readiness. Maryland's kindergarten entry date was gradually changed between 2002 and 2006 to hold younger children back; this change accounts for 1.5 percent of the gain in school readiness through those years, Grafwallner said. Other factors include a new kindergarten curriculum rolled out in 2007 and teachers' increasing familiarity with the assessment process.

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