Just one in four children in the state is prepared for kindergarten, according to preliminary data presented to the Kentucky Board of Education on Tuesday. The preliminary data is showing that 24 percent to 28 percent of children are considered prepared for kindergarten, said Karen Dodd, director of strategic planning for the education department.
"That's big, guys," education commissioner Terry Holliday said during a meeting in Frankfort broadcast on the Web. "What we're telling you is that only about a quarter of the students coming to kindergarten are ready for kindergarten."
The data is from preliminary results of kindergarten readiness tests taken by 34,500 children in more than 100 school districts, officials said. Next year, all 174 districts will be required to use the assessments, developed with a company called Brigance.
Holliday told the board he was alarmed by those results when he first saw them, but he is confident there will be swift improvement, partially because he expects the numbers to go up when all school districts use the tests next year.
He said between 50,000 and 55,000 kindergartners enroll in public schools in Kentucky every year.
Responding to a question from the board, associate commissioner Felicia Smith said only 30 to 40 districts in Kentucky offer universal preschool.
Board member Brigitte B. Ramsey said the state needs to look at better ways to involve communities in early childhood education.
Holliday pointed to kindergarten readiness as key to determining a student's future, saying that children must be reading at grade level by third grade.
"If we don't have them reading by the end of third grade, their odds of being able to graduate from high school are greatly diminished," he said.
By knowing whether children are ready when they enter kindergarten, schools can then track each of them individually, he said.
"This is what's going to make the difference 12 years from now. Right here," Holliday said.
Also at the meeting, officials said results of the state's new K-PREP assessments will likely be delayed until Oct. 30 or Oct. 31, and possibly into November.
Associate commissioner Ken Draut told the board that compiling and double-checking the results is taking longer than usual because this is the first year of the new assessment system. Students took the tests in the spring.
Draut said next year's timetable calls for scores to be released in September.
Officials had originally said the K-PREP scores would be released sometime in late October. The state Department of Education has been telling school districts and members of the public for months to expect the scores from the new tests to be lower than the scores have been for the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, or CATS, especially in math and reading. That's because the K-PREP tests are based on new benchmarks.
The department says parents will receive their children's scores about two weeks after the public release.