Washington’s Youngest Learners Show Record-High Kindergarten Readiness

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Katy Payne she/her

At the beginning of every school year, Washington’s new kindergarteners and their families participate in an observational assessment where the student’s teacher evaluates their readiness for kindergarten. New data published recently by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) show that a record-high percentage of Washington’s kindergarteners are showing readiness in all six of the domains assessed.

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal

The Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) assesses students’ readiness for kindergarten in six different domains: cognitive, language, literacy, math, physical, and social-emotional. In fall 2023, 52.5% of kindergarteners exhibited readiness in all six domains, an increase of 4.1 percentage points compared to kindergarteners in fall 2022.

“Transitioning into kindergarten is such an important milestone for children and their families,” said State Superintendent Chris Reykdal. “Early learning experiences play a significant role in shaping every student’s future, and we should do everything we can to remove barriers and close opportunity gaps so that every student in Washington can be successful in school and in life.”

Every student group saw increases of at least 3 percentage points in the percentage of students exhibiting readiness in all six domains, as compared to 2022. The greatest gains were for students who identify as Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, students who identify as Black/African American, and students who identify American Indian/Alaska Native, with increases of 8.3, 7.1, and 6.6 percentage points, respectively, in 2023.

When looking at each of the six readiness domains individually, the greatest gains were in cognitive and math readiness. In fall 2023, 75.6% of kindergarteners exhibited cognitive readiness—represented by skills like problem-solving and dramatic play—and 70% of kindergarteners exhibited math readiness. Those figures represent increases of 3.7 and 3.8 percentage points, respectively, as compared to 2022.

WaKIDS readiness over time

Literacy and language readiness rates also increased as compared to fall 2022. In the domain of literacy readiness, 77.5% of Washington kindergarteners exhibited readiness, an increase of 2.8 percentage points in 2023. In language readiness, 74.1% of Washington kindergarteners exhibited readiness, an increase of 1.9 percentage points.

Pre-kindergarten learning opportunities play a key role in preparing students for kindergarten and help to close opportunity gaps early in a child’s educational journey. Washington state offers a variety of pre-kindergarten options, including federally funded Head Start programs and the state-funded Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) that are available for children from families identified as low-income.

Transition to Kindergarten (TK) programs are also available to Washington children who otherwise cannot access high-quality early learning opportunities and have a demonstrated need for additional support. OSPI oversees TK programs, which serve children who are at least 4 years old and need additional preparation to be successful in kindergarten.

In fall 2022, students who participated in TK in the previous year outperformed their peers in all six domains of WaKIDS. The gains were even more pronounced for students with disabilities, students who are multilingual/English learners, and students identified as low-income. TK programs are currently offered by more than 130 school districts across Washington and serve more than 5,300 students.

WaKIDS readines by domain

Washington’s youngest learners can also access free books through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which is a program proven to increase kindergarten readiness for participants. The Imagination Library of Washington achieved statewide expansion in July, meaning all children from birth to age 5 in the state can receive an age-appropriate book at no cost to their families. OSPI invested a portion of its federal pandemic relief funds to support the program’s statewide expansion and continues to support the Imagination Library as it seeks needed funding from the Legislature to continue serving Washington’s children.

On top of assessing students for kindergarten readiness, WaKIDS works with families and early learning providers for a smooth transition into kindergarten. Family Connection Meetings occur at the beginning of the school year to welcome families to the K–12 system and help families and teachers begin to build relationships. Schools also foster relationships with early learning providers to help create a sense of continuity for children entering kindergarten.

WaKIDS data can be viewed can be viewed for the state, by school district, and by school on the Washington State Report Card.