The Missouri State Board of Education is now encouraging schools to utilize a new way to assess the progress of early childhood education.
In May, the state's board wrapped up a year-long pilot of three readiness tools that were tested in a variety of early childhood education programs throughout the state that serve children ages three through kindergarten.
The Desired Results Developmental Profile is now recommended by the state board to all Missouri schools, but is not required at this point.
Developed by the California Department of Education, the profile is designed to be a standardized way to measure a child’s level of development before they leave preschool.
Billed as a tool that provides useful information to parents, teachers and administrators, the goal is to give an assessment on the learning and development of each individual student in various aspects of their education. This not only includes testing what the child has learned, but also their social and emotional growth.
At face value, having a set standard for what factors deem a child ready for the next grade level would be a valuable tool for schools and other child care providers.
But under the surface, it raises a difficult question, what would happen to students who are not ready.
Joy Budine, who was recently hired as the preschool teacher at Horace Mann Laboratory School, said that in her 10-plus years of experience she has not seen many districts with the capacity to handle these students aside from sending them on to the next grade.
Across the state, larger school districts either already have programs available for these students or have the resources to establish such programs.
Already faced with budget cuts, rural school districts likely will not be able to foot the bill to hold children back until they are deemed “ready.”
“First of all, it is always difficult to decide whether or not a child is ready,” Budine said “So a standard evaluation would be good in that sense. But there really aren’t many alternative programs.”
She said that in her experience, she has seen a few Title I schools with developmental or extended care programs.
According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, these assessments of early learning needs are the first step towards closing the kindergarten-readiness gap.
DESE’s announcement of the “Top 10 by 20” initiative, which set a goal for the state to be in the top 10 in education nationally by the year 2020, calls for young children to be fully prepared when they enter kindergarten.
Budine pointed out that students often advance in grade levels before they are ready.
“It does happen regularly,” Budine said. “But it’s difficult to push them on.”
Page 2 of 2 - It is still only a recommendation from DESE, schools who participate will have to pay $300 annually for the evaluation service and online system for up to 200 students. There will also be additional costs for training.
If this type of evaluation does ever become mandatory, it would be likely that the state would have to provide funding for alternative programs for the students who are not moved on.
It could also take some decisions away from parents and educators.
“The families, the parents, are the number one expert on their children,” Budine said. “I’ve always tried to give them the benefit of doubt, because ultimately it is their decision to make.”