National, state, and local research, policy and advocacy to improve the lives of kids

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Kindergarten Transition

Kindergarten readiness assessments help teachers know what students need to be successful in school


Young children - particularly low-income children, kids of color and English learners – are at risk of falling behind without quality preschool or transitional kindergarten. Schools that coordinate between preschool and kindergarten and provide transitional kindergarten help kids build the skills needed to learn, thrive and succeed. 

Kindergarten readiness tools help coordinate the transition from preschool. They allow educators to tailor support for individual kids and help local decision-makers build programs around community needs. Currently, however, California isn’t one of the 29 states consistently collecting readiness data. 

When California schools do assess the readiness of kindergartners, they rarely capture information on social-emotional development. This is problematic because research shows the connection between social-emotional readiness and long-term success. Kindergarten kids rated high in social competence are more likely to graduate high school, get a college degree and be employed by age 25. 

Only 45% of California 3rd graders read at grade-level. The number is lower for African American (34%) and Latino (33%) students, low-income kids (33%), and English learners (18%). California must work to improve its preschool and transitional kindergarten and increase kindergarten readiness so all students get a strong start.

Pro-Kid® Policy Agenda 

California must encourage stronger coordination between early learning programs and K-12 schools. The state should support the use of a common kindergarten readiness assessment, and ensure schools are collecting consistent data so policymakers can use the information to improve education for all kids. 


Transitional kindergarten (TK) can help prepare kids for school, but there’s more schools must do to get our youngest learners on track for success. TK is new to California, and schools are still learning how best to deliver high-quality TK. Recent changes to age requirements mean more children are likely to attend transitional kindergarten in the future. To ensure schools are ready to serve these new students, a standard kindergarten readiness assessment tool should be adopted across districts. Both TK and traditional kindergarten could improve if schools had valid assessment data, and could tailor their teaching methods to meet their students’ unique needs. In California, there are a few bright spots where communities have adopted kindergarten readiness assessment and support systems. But the patchwork approach means the state is unable to collect kindergarten readiness data, and isn’t sure how many of our kids are starting school ready to learn.





Kindergarten Readiness Tools

With the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the Local Control Funding Formula, school districts have new opportunities to strengthen support for young learners, like using readiness assessment information to better understand the knowledge and skills of their youngest students and to ensure that strategies for instruction, intervention, and support are tailored to their learning and developmental needs. At the aggregate level, readiness data can also guide school districts, communities, and even the state in decisions around planning and resource allocation.

California Moving Forward on a Readiness Tool

Over half of the states (29) in the country collect kindergarten readiness information in a state-level data system, but unfortunately California is not one of them. However, the California Department of Education (CDE) recognizes the need for a valid and reliable observation and assessment tool that can be utilized uniformly throughout the state. In collaboration with the WestEd Center for Child and Family Studies and the University of California, Berkeley Evaluation and Assessment Research (BEAR) Center, CDE developed an assessment instrument called the Desired Results Developmental Profile-Kindergarten (DRDP-K). This tool is developmentally appropriate, aligned to both the Common Core and the Preschool Learning Foundations, and free for all school districts that elect to use it.