By Terry Dean
Oak Park elementary school District 97 is piloting a statewide kindergarten assessment program designed to help students grow in specific academic areas.
The program, called KIDS (Kindergarten Individual Development Survey), is being piloted in 56 Illinois school districts. It was created by the Illinois State Board of Education and a statewide committee of teachers and researchers, with the goal of identifying gaps and gathering data for teachers to improve classroom instruction. Another goal is to better align early childhood programs with those in elementary schools.
Twenty-four of D97's 36 kindergarten teachers have trained to use the program. The remaining teachers are expected to come on board as other training slots open up. D97 officials stress that KIDS is not a "test" but an assessment tool for teachers.
"It's supposed to be observing the kids in their everyday activity, so the challenge is how to do that while you're still teaching and doing all the other activities you're doing," says Felicia Starks-Turner, D97's director of administrative services.
Students will be observed in five developmental areas, including math, literacy and language. The students will also be assessed in the areas of self-regulation and social development.
Regina MacAskill, D97's assistant director of special education, describes KIDS as not an "add-on" to what teachers are currently doing, but a rethinking of how instruction is delivered. Teachers are required to take detailed assessments of their students. The five areas includes specific "readiness measures," about 30 in all. For instance in math, one of the assessments involve kindergarteners being able to recite and recognize numbers correctly and correctly counting as many as 20 objects at a time.
Teachers will be required to conduct those assessments three times during the school year, once in the fall and twice in the spring.
About 10,000 kindergarteners statewide are participating in this first-year pilot, with D97 having the most teachers and students involved of any other district, MacAskill noted.
The pilot will last through the 2014-15 school year as more students and teachers are expected to participate. Full implementation of KIDS is expected by 2015, with an estimated 55,000 kindergarteners statewide likely to participate.