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Kindergarten Assessment Predicts Children's Success Through Education

By Troy Hunter, Director of Research, Evaluation, and Performance, Groundwork Ohio Follow Troy on Twitter and LinkedIn

Every school year more than 100,000 of Ohio's young learners embark on their educational journey by entering kindergarten. Not all children, however, have the same access to high-quality early learning experiences and that is apparent early on their education. All incoming kindergarteners are administered the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment Revised (KRA-R), a tool designed to gauge a child's preparedness for the educational experiences that lie ahead.

The KRA-R focuses on four fundamental areas that lay the foundation for a child's early learning:

  1. Language and Literacy: Evaluating early language development and literacy skills.

  2. Mathematics: Assessing foundational numeracy skills.

  3. Social Foundations: Emphasizing social and emotional development and approaches toward learning.

  4. Physical Well-being and Motor Development: Ensuring a child's physical skills are on track.

The startling truth is that nearly two out of every three kindergartners are not showing up demonstrating kindergarten readiness.

The shortened version of the KRA was implemented in fall 2020, aligning with Ohio's Early Learning and Development Standards. It is administered to kindergarteners between July and the 20th day of instruction and is an evaluation involving teacher observations and age-appropriate tasks that children respond to, capturing a snapshot of their school readiness.

Research consistently highlights the role of early school readiness as a predictor of future academic success. Children demonstrating age-appropriate skills at the start of kindergarten are more likely to thrive academically throughout their educational trajectory.

Children administered the KRA can score emerging, approaching, or demonstrating readiness. They also are categorized as on-track or not on-track for language and literacy. The number of children not on-track for language and literacy has increased 18.3% from 2014 to 2022. Over half of kindergarteners are not on-track for Language and Literacy.

Disparities in Readiness

There are disparities in kindergarten readiness among children, as the 2022-2023 KRA data show a staggering 64.6 percent of all kindergarteners in Ohio were not ready for kindergarten. The data exposed an even wider gap with 79 percent of low-income and 85.6 percent of children with disabilities not demonstrating kindergarten readiness.

Inequities in education start before students show up to school, with 80.2 percent of all Black kindergarteners and 83.4 percent of Black boys not ready for kindergarten.

Following Black students through school, Ohio educators are two times as likely to identify Black students as having an intellectual disability, place Black students with disabilities in more restrictive settings, and remove Black students with disabilities from the classroom for disciplinary reasons. These trends continue throughout the education experience as 1 out of 4 Black children didn’t graduate high school in 2021.

Trending through Time: Disparities Stay Consistent

The KRA is the only test administered to all children entering kindergarten and serves as Ohio’s metric to show readiness among kindergarteners. While we can see that less than half of kindergarteners are not demonstrating readiness on the KRA, even less of Ohio’s Black, Hispanic, low-income, and children with disabilities are ready for kindergarten. That trend has stayed consistent over time.

We have seen a decrease in all children ready for kindergarten since 2020 and stark gaps remain consistent. In 2023, 42.2 percent of white children were ready for kindergarten, more than double that of Black and Hispanic children. We see the same pattern of twice as many children without disabilities being ready for kindergarten compared to those with, and over double the number of children not considered low-income being ready compared to children living in low-income households.

The data is stunning and persistent; we see clear and stark disparities for Ohio’s kindergartners. Looking at the trend from 2014 to 2022, the number of children ready for kindergarten are similar for Black, Hispanic, and low-income children. What can we conclude from that? Systemically, Ohio’s children of color, children living in low-income households, and children with disabilities are experiencing barriers that impact their school readiness distinct from their white, higher-income, typically developing peers.

Access to high-quality early learning experiences, health care, and other basic needs vary dramatically across these demographics, and we see many of these disparities persistent through other areas such as mental health, health care, and economic stability. As performance on the KRA has worsened, so too has children’s academic performance and success throughout school. Policymakers must invest in the first five years of every child’s life so every Ohio family can send their child to school ready to learn and thrive.

Children Who Start Behind Stay Behind

The Ohio Department of Education and Workforce followed a cohort of kindergartners from 2014 and found that children who were demonstrating readiness for Kindergarten are more likely to score proficient or higher in both mathematics and English language arts.

Predicting Mathematics Readiness:

  • 90.5 percent of children who were demonstrating kindergarten readiness in 2014 scored proficient or higher on Ohio’s state test in mathematics in 2017 during grade 3.

  • Only 69.2 percent of students approaching readiness, and an alarming 40.4 percent of children showing emerging readiness, scored proficient or higher on the grade 3 Ohio State Test in mathematics in 2017.

Predicting English Language Arts Readiness:

  • 99.1 percent of children who were demonstrating kindergarten readiness in 2014 met the grade 3 reading guarantee.

  • 21.1 percent or more than one in five students who were not showing kindergarten readiness in 2014 did not meet the grade 3 reading guarantee.

Invest Now or Pay Later

Over half of children from families with low incomes don’t have access to early learning opportunities. The number of children who are showing up ready for school is continuing to decline and Ohio’s kindergarteners can’t afford to wait. If we fail to invest in early learning now, our children will pay the price later.

Ohio Can Invest in Children by:

  • Ensuring that all children, regardless of race and socio-economic backgrounds, have access to quality early childhood education.

  • Implementing targeted support programs for communities facing the highest disparities in kindergarten readiness.

  • Developing initiatives that empower parents to engage actively in their child's early education journey.


 What You Can Do

  • Learn More about Kindergarten readiness and other areas we see disparities in our early childhood systems by visiting our Early Childhood Dashboard.

  • Act now and subscribe to our Early Learning Newsletter to stay up to date with the latest updates and how you can get involved.

  • Give to support Groundwork’s mission to address the disparities in kindergarten readiness through our advocacy network!


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