(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – Many Kentucky students are at a disadvantage for learning before they even start school, according to Kindergarten Readiness Screener data released by the Kentucky Department of Education.

Only about half of the students entering kindergarten in 2016-17 were considered ready, the Kentucky Board of Education learned at its meeting in Frankfort Dec. 7. School readiness is defined in 704 KAR 5:070 as “a student entering school ready to engage in and benefit from early learning experiences that best promote the student’s success.”

The results, however, did show consistent growth for students enrolled in state-funded preschool and federal Head Start programs. Additionally, African American and Hispanic students and students with limited English proficiency also showed modest increases in school readiness.

“This data reinforces the importance of quality early learning opportunities for all children,” said Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt. “All children need to have the same opportunities to develop and learn before they enter school so that they can hit the ground running from the first day they enter kindergarten. Without those opportunities, children often struggle and fall behind their peers. While it is good to see some growth in certain areas this year, it is critical that Kentucky continue in its efforts to improve early childhood programs for all students.”

Kindergarten Readiness by Group

GroupNumber TestedKindergarten Ready Percentage
All Students50,53249,08946,78946,58249.
White (Non-Hispanic)38,73537,38935,53835,17051.252.152.752.3
African American5,1965,1584,8184,85544.246.344.546.9
American Indian/Alaska Native6355557249.245.550.952.8
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander7051615851.449.031.148.3
Two or More Races2,1412,2102,1502,20350.551.050.950.5
Limited English Proficiency2,8902,8862,7882,95126.128.726.026.9
Free/Reduced-Price Meals31,14531,60029,84029,80537.639.439.739.8
Students with Disabilities6,4057,0346,0765,54228.227.631.129.7

Studies show that children who attend high quality early learning environments have better math, language and social skills. Additionally, they are less likely to be retained in a grade and have a lower likelihood of being chronically absent in their primary and secondary school years and of graduating high school.

Kentucky is focused on improving the quality of early care and education programs and increasing educational outcomes and success for all preschoolers.

One way it is doing that is through the new Kentucky All STARS program, an expanded five-star quality rating and improvement system that serves all early care and education programs that receive public funding including child care centers, Head Start and public preschool. Kentucky All STARS is based on Kentucky’s Early Childhood Standards and research-based indicators of quality, and recognizes programs that have made a commitment to continuous quality improvement.

“Quality early learning programs and experiences are a key strategy in closing the opportunity and achievement gaps that currently exist among our various student groups,” Pruitt said. “Our efforts with the Kentucky All STARS and other early childhood initiatives are geared toward improving student outcomes and also helping parents recognize and select the best, high-quality program for their child.”

This is the fourth year that the Kentucky Readiness Screener has been given statewide to all incoming kindergarten students.

Teachers administered the BRIGANCE K Screener to 46,582 students in all 173 school districts at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. Students are asked their name and age, to recite the alphabet and count to 30, among other tasks.

The screener provides a snapshot of student readiness in the following domains: academic/cognitive, language development and physical development. Performing at a certain level is not a requirement to enter kindergarten.

As part of the screener, parents also fill out a survey on their child’s ability to help him or herself and social-emotional development, though this information is not factored into readiness scores.

Parents also are asked to fill out a survey about what type of setting the child was in the year before kindergarten.

The questionnaire did not distinguish whether the program was a half-day or full-day program, or the duration a child spent in a particular setting. Students can be included in multiple prior settings.

Kindergarten Readiness by Prior Setting

Prior SettingNumber TestedKindergarten Ready Percentage
State-Funded Preschool14.98717,39616,55916,33944.947.448.149.5
Head Start5,8226,6156,6036,94242.444.545.848.0
Child Care9,56210,65210,67310,99470.069.970.169.7

The settings include:

  • State-Funded Preschool – State-funded preschool serves 3- and 4-year-old children. Three-year- old children qualify based on developmental delay; 4-year-old children qualify based on developmental delay or family income.
  • Head Start – Federally-funded program serving 3- and 4-year-old children. Children qualify based on developmental delay and family income.
  • Child care – Privately owned, licensed child care facilities and certified homes; usually private pay and subsidized.
  • Home – Home with parent or guardian.
  • Other – Non-licensed child care facilities, babysitters, kin care.
  • Unknown – No data gathered from families.

Resources to support quality leaning experiences are available for parents and for early care and education providers on the Kentucky Department of Education and the Governor’s Office for Early Childhood websites.

The kindergarten readiness screener data is available in the supplemental data section of the KDE Open House.