Maryland awarded $5M grant for new Pre-K assessments

Maryland was named one of seven states awarded millions in grant funds from the U.S. Department of Education to develop a new assessment for pre-kindergartners, officials announced Friday.

The state, considered a leader in early childhood education, will receive $4.9 million to design a system that measures how prepared students are when they begin their academic careers. 

According to a release, state education officials said the department is currently developing a "new comprehensive assessment system." The grant, they said, will "build on this work, expanding its effort within a seven-state consortium," that includes Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, and Ohio.

"A child who's ready for kindergarten has a strong start toward success in school and in life," Secretary Duncan said. "The high-quality assessments that these states will develop will give educators and parents an additional tool for understanding a child's cognitive and non-cognitive development."

Currently, the state uses the Maryland Model for School Readiness which it launched more than a decade ago.

The readiness exam, which observes students in seven areas such as language and literacy, mathematical and scientific thinking, and social development, is administered to kindergartners each fall. Students fall into three categories: fully ready, approaching readiness and developing readiness.

While the readiness scores have increased drastically in the last decade, the state noted its first decline (1 percentage point to 83 percent) in the percentage of kindergartners deemed "fully ready" last year. Most large school districts saw declines with the exception of Baltimore City.

State officials said earlier this year that the roll-out of new curricula aligned with the Common Core standards, which start in Pre-K, would require a revamp of readiness assessments to reflect a new level of rigor.

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