Fewer children are kindergarten-ready during pandemic

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Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 3:55 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Fewer children who enter kindergarten in Mississippi are ready for it.

The state education department released the fall 2021 assessment for kindergarten readiness.

It gauges literacy skills and helps teachers understand what kids are capable of before the school year.

Of the 33,265 kindergarteners tested in fall 2021, 31.8% scored kindergarten-ready, compared to 36.6% in fall 2019 and 36.1% in fall 2018.

Statewide, the average score was 487, but educators say that most students who score 530 or higher are on track to being proficient in reading by the end of 3rd grade.

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright says the assessment is “further proof of the pandemic’s impact on students.” However, years before the pandemic, readiness assessments revealed much of the same.

In 2014, more than 65% of students scored below the benchmark on the Kindergarten readiness assessment.

The average score was 501.

Dr. Tennette Smith, MDE Executive Director of Elementary Education and Reading, says the reasons why vary depending on the child’s home life, number of siblings, and access to early learning to name a few. And during the pandemic, Smith said some parents were apprehensive about sending their children to school.

“We had a lot of parents who were hesitant to send their younger kids to school. We especially saw this in communities of color.”

However, Smith said the benefit of the assessment is that it provides educators with baseline data.

“This assessment provides us with a starting point to develop instructional plans. It helps us know how much support is needed for students, the type of curriculum and resources.”

And Smith said the MDE works collaboratively to support educators throughout the school year with professional development, family engagement activities, and early literacy coaching.

“They go in, and they provide model lessons to teachers, they evaluate the teacher-student interaction with a class observation,” Smith said. “They sit they talk with the teacher about how they’re interacting, how to increase the positive student-teacher interaction and how to motivate the pre-K child.”

They also discuss the importance of the role of centers in the early childhood classroom. “For example, the dramatic play center is an important component for an early childhood classroom, as it improves oral language development, and helps children learn real-life social skills.

And these statewide initiatives prove to be working.

When Kindergarteners were tested at the end of 2019, 65% of Mississippi’s students met the mark with the necessary skills for their grade level.

The Mississippi legislature also doubled the money to pre-K early learning collaboratives this school year to $16 million, $8 million more than last year.

“We are increasing our ability to reach children,” Smith added. “We have an unprecedented amount of federal funds available this year, and we’re seeing more and more school districts opt to provide pre-K programs.”

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