by Genevieve Demos Kelley
I have been a teacher in Maryland for over 33 years and I have never had anything impact my instruction negatively as the administration and recording of the KRA. — from MSEA’s Survey of Kindergarten Teachers, (Appendix I, p. 34)
Maryland’s Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA), introduced during the 2014-2015 school year, is designed to measure a child’s readiness for school in four areas: Language & Literacy, Mathematics, Physical Well-being & Motor Development, and Social Foundations.
On the surface, this sounds reasonable: Teachers have always assessed their incoming students’ skills, so that they can better meet the needs of the class. But the outcry from kindergarten teachers over this new assessment was so loud that the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) asked that the use of the KRA be suspended until “critical revisions” are made. A 100-plus page report issued by MSEA documents survey data and narrative responses from hundreds of kindergarten teachers.
The feedback has been overwhelmingly negative. Teachers are deeply concerned about the loss of instructional time, and they see little value in the data generated by the test.
- The test is administered by the child’s kindergarten teacher — not an assistant or other staff member — on a one-on-one basis. Since the assessment occurs during the school day, instructional time is lost as teachers pull students for testing and substitutes take their place. Here are comments from three teachers who responded to MSEA’s survey:
- The time used to administer the KRA…could be used to pull small groups, work one-on-one with students, provide enrichment to students, collect data for progress reports, etc. (p.2).
Some of the fun projects we do in the beginning of the year, that go along with the curriculum, have gone by the way side (Appendix I, p. 58).
- The first few months of school are the most important in setting routines, expectations and getting to know my children. I have spent more hours ignoring their needs or handing off instruction to substitutes then I can count (Appendix I, p.1).
Initially, teachers were told that the test would take about 45 minutes for each child. But according to the Maryland State Education Association’s (MSEA) survey of kindergarten teachers, about 80% of teachers found that the test took more than hour to administer. Nearly one in five teachers (17.7%) reported that the test took over two hours. Multiplying this by the number of kindergarteners in each class means many hours of lost instruction.
- One survey question asked whether the KRA would improve instruction. For 91% of teachers — a near consensus — the answer was no. Here are two sample comments from teachers:
- Very few of the assessment tasks provide any useful information to help guide instruction as many of the skills assessed by the tasks could be easily assessed during authentic classroom activities (Appendix I, p. 56).
- The skills assessed are not relevant to what students actually need to enter kindergarten (p. 4)
- The testing window must be long enough to allow one-on-one testing for each child. In Prince George’s County, the testing window for the 2015-2016 school year was more than two months, beginning on September 4th and lasting through November 6th. This casts doubt on the reliability of the data: A child who takes the KRA in November would likely be significantly more “ready” than one who takes the test in September. One teacher wrote:
I can tell you that the first week of school I had 7 children who couldn’t write their name. By the 3rd week of October all of those students can now do that (Appendix I, p. 1)
Things could change before next year’s crop of kindergarteners enter school. House Bill 657, sponsored by Maryland Delegate Shoemaker (R-District 5), would minimize lost instructional time by limiting the test to a random sample of students. A public hearing for HB 657 will be held in Annapolis on Thursday, February 18th at 1 pm.
Contact your state legislative representatives and let them know where you stand on HB 657. Not sure who your elected officials are? Go to this website and type in your address.
- Find the entire MSEA report here.
- Read the December 2014 Washington Post article, “Why kindergarten teachers don’t want to give this test to their students.”
- Read more about HB 657 here and here.
- Read the Maryland State Department of Education’s report on the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, including test results by county and by subgroup, here.