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Less than half of Maryland students are ready for kindergarten

Liz Bowie
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Less than half of Maryland’s children have the behavior and academic skills they need to be successful in kindergarten, according to a new state report.

Across Maryland, 47 percent of students are prepared to learn, up two percentage points from last year, according to the report, released this past week.

In Baltimore County, 49 percent of students were prepared, a result that interim school Superintendent Verletta White attributed to the emphasis her system places on early learning and literacy.

In other areas in the Baltimore region, the results varied significantly. Carroll County had the highest percentage of the region, with 61 percent of its students prepared. In Howard County, 56 percent of students tested ready, in Anne Arundel 48 percent did, and in Harford 43 percent. In Baltimore City 39 percent of its children tested prepared for kindergarten.

White said the county has been particularly focused on trying to intervene at age 3 with children who have deficits. The county is “recognizing and diagnosing the deficiencies early on to help get them on track,” she said, through Judy Centers that link families to resources in early childhood, a preschool center, and a program that identifies children with disabilities as toddlers.

The kindergarten readiness test is administered to every student in 14 counties, but the remaining 10 school systems only give it to a sampling of students. A longer kindergarten assessment was introduced several years ago that teachers said took too much time, and after a rebellion by school systems the state required it be given only by a sampling of students.

Maryland State Board President Justin Hartings said he would like to see school systems give every student the assessment because the results can help dictate future state aid to education under the Kirwan Commission proposals which call for offering all low-income 3- and 4-year-olds some preschool.

Across the nation, more school districts are focused on early education as a way to make up gaps in learning that appear later on.

Somerset, Garrett and Kent counties offer full day pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds. All three systems have a higher-than-average percentage of students ready for kindergarten. Somerset County, for instance, had 60 percent of its children passing the assessment.

Baltimore City also has the same full-day program but does not have similar results.

The results also showed that nearly 60 percent of middle- and high-income students passed the kindergarten assessment while only a third of low-income students did.

Only 22 percent of students whose first language isn’t English were ready and only 19 percent of special education students were.

The state report showed that students who are low-income, recent immigrants and identified with disabilities have lower pass rates on the test. For instance, only 9 percent of students with disabilities are considered prepared.

A majority of kindergarten teachers indicated that the test, given in the beginning of the school year, helps them identify their students’ strengths and weaknesses, according to survey results released by the state.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

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