Good news? More Maryland kindergarteners are ready for school. Bad news? It’s not nearly enough

About 42% of kindergarteners across Maryland are considered academically ready for the classroom this year. That’s an improvement on the state Kindergarten Readiness Assessment when only 40% were academically prepared last year, Maryland State Board of Education data shows.

But not nearly enough children are academically prepared for those statistics to be considered successful. Officials discussed the data during the Maryland State Board of Education meeting on Tuesday.

It’s an even more dire situation for the youngest students in Baltimore City, where 33% of kindergarteners are ready for school. About 39% demonstrated readiness in Baltimore County.

The assessment measures the knowledge, behavior, and skills of incoming kindergarteners and all students statewide are assessed. Teachers observe their students during school work and play between the first day of school in late August through Oct. 10.

Kindergarten Readiness Assessment

Maryland State Board of Education

Kindergarten Readiness Assessment

State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury, who oversees all the local school districts, said while there was an improvement, scores had not returned to the pre-pandemic level.

Before the pandemic about 47% of students demonstrated readiness across Maryland schools. Choudhury said the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, will require collaboration between preschools and local school systems.

“One of the things that the Blueprint is going to start doing is that the providers, whether it’s private or public, and the school system need to work together and they need to vertically articulate beyond just kindergarten transition activities,” Choudhury said.

Only 10% of English Language Learners, which means students whose first language is not English, were considered ready for kindergarten, state data shows. About 17% of students with disabilities were academically ready.

Those percentages have not been budgeted in the past year.

“Unless we do something for those babies, we’re not going to get differences when it comes to schools,” said Joan Mele-McCarthy, State Board of Education Member and Executive Director of The Summit School.

The Maryland State Board of Education is revamping its kindergarten assessment program, coined as KRA 3.0 in collaboration with the nonprofit organizations Center for Measurement Justice and WestEd. Students will be assessed using the new guidelines in Fall 2024. Spanish language speakers will have the opportunity to be assessed in their native language.

In addition to focusing on school readiness, Choudhury said it’s important to pay attention to the academic trajectory of the kindergarten students because there is often a decline in proficiency throughout the years.

“It’s one thing to be ready at kindergarten, it’s another thing to hold it steady, all the way up to there at the end of third grade. So we really need to think about it as an entire system,” he said.