Governor Chris Gregoire this week put her signature on a legislature-approved bill aimed at ensuring the 70,000 kids who enter kindergaren each year in our state are ready for school. Senate Bill 5427, called WaKIDS for short since it mandates the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) transition process for all full-day kindergarten classes that receive state funding, brings together families, early learning providers and kindergarten teachers to help get every child off to a strong start in kindergarten. It is currently being piloted in 120 schools by the Department of Early Learning and the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Abiding by the new law is voluntary during school year 2011-2012, and mandatory for classes beginning in school year 2012-2013. And implementation of the bill remains contingent upon funding in the final 2011-2013 state operating budget.
Using the waKIDS process, teachers meet one-on-one with families to learn more about the children entering their kindergarten classes. In these meetings, the teachers goal is to learn about each child's strengths and needs, their and their parents' worries and their family culture. Teachers also receive and assessment of the child's social/emotional, cognitive, linguists, and physical development. Teachers and early learning providers then meet together to share information about children new to kindergarten. According to the statewide advocacy group the League of Education Voters, the waKIDS process will provide "developmentally-appropriate observational assessments that in the first few weeks of school will give teachers critical information about individual student strengths and instructional needs." The data will also help increase and direct investments from policymakers and the philanthropic community, league leaders say.
The University of Washington will deliver a final evaluation of the WaKIDS pilot year next month. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Thrive by Five Washington provided additional funding for the pilot year.
The state of Maryland has mandated a kindergarten readiness assessment since 2001. Since then, the percent of kindergarteners ready for school rose 32 points, from 49 percent to 81 percent.