Maryland Legislative Session: The Kindergarten Readiness Assessment

The following is a testimony given by Genevieve Demos Kelley at the Maryland House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee Public Hearing on February 18th, 2016, in support of House Bill 657, a bill that would limit the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment to a random sample of students. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.

Image 2-20-16 at 4.28 PMThank you for giving me the opportunity to speak in support of HB 657. I am a mother of two boys: a seven-year-old in the Prince George’s County school system and a four-year-old who is still in preschool.

My older son started kindergarten in the fall of 2013, one year before the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment was implemented statewide. I vividly remember the mix of anxiety and excitement that we both experienced as I took him to his classroom and then said goodbye. Of course I wanted him to learn to read and and to write, but most of all, I wanted him to learn to love learning, to learn to love school. And he did! He was fortunate to have a teacher who sparkled in the classroom. Her lessons were engaging, and she cared about her students. I was confident that my son was in good hands.

The next school year, as my son was adjusting to first grade, I kept hearing the same complaints from parents in my community whose kids had just entered kindergarten: Their children were underwhelmed, and they did not understand why the kindergarten teachers were so frequently absent.

Eventually, an article in the Washington Post and a quick google search led me to MSEA’s Report and Recommendations on the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment. I learned about the terrible disruption to the classroom that this new test was causing, as teachers were required to administer a one-on-one test to every child in their class. Hundreds of teachers had responded to MSEA’s survey, and I found pages and pages of heartbreaking comments from teachers — teachers who felt that they were no longer able to do their jobs effectively during the critical first few weeks of school.

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Teachers Concerned about Time-Consuming Test for Kindergarteners

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

IMG_6404I 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.

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