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'This assessment helps us measure the strength and capacity of our early learning system and the readiness of our K-12 system.'

PMG FILE PHOTO - A new state assessment released Thursday, Feb. 14, found that some kindergarten students were better prepared for elementary school than others. PPS students fared well on the assessment.Children entering kindergarten in Portland Public Schools are better prepared for school than children across the state, but kids in the Parkrose and David Douglas school districts are slightly less ready, according to statistics released Thursday by the state.

Children are assessed in the fall as they enter kindergarten to see if they have a basic understanding of letters and numbers and whether they have the self-regulation skills to get along in class and do things such as lining up and listening to the teacher.

"This assessment helps us measure the strength and capacity of our early learning system and the readiness of our K-12 system to serve each and every child in Oregon," said Colt Gill, director of Oregon Department of Education, in an announcement. "It is not about the readiness of our children. All of our children are ready to learn every day."

The evaluations are informal. Kindergartners are not bubbling-in test papers. Teachers sit with students individually and show them things with numbers and letters and see how much they already know.

"This is an interaction. It's one-on-one and very low-key. It's not a testing environment," said Julie Evans, executive director of elementary education at the Gresham-Barlow School District.

It also doesn't mean kindergarten is the new second grade. "Kindergarten isn't a second-grade classroom. It's still an active, playful, fun, game-based environment," Evans said.

Children entering kindergarten in Portland were able to answer 12.3 simple math questions out of 16, compared to 11.1 statewide. Parkrose and David Douglass lagged the state slightly. Parkrose kids answered 9.9 of the math questions correctly and David Douglas' smallest scholars answered 9.4 correctly.

For the early literacy skills, Portland children were able to identify 10.6 letter sounds, compared with 7.7 for kids statewide. Parkrose kindergarteners knew 5.9 letter sounds and David Douglas 6.1 sounds.

Students are also tested on recognizing upper and lower case letters and the letter names. On social-emotional skills, what the state calls "approaches to learning," students measured 3.6 statewide, 3.8 in Portland, 3.6 in Parkrose and 3.7 for David Douglas kinders.

The state said, "This key assessment includes examining a student's social-emotional well-being via teachers observing and leading the student through daily activities such as following directions or cooperatively playing in groups."

Supporting families and children

Statistically, children from wealthier families do better in school and graduate at higher rates and those advantages already are reflected in these statistics. In the high-income Riverdale School District, the children knew 17.5 letter sounds, more than twice the statewide average of 7.7 statewide. Riverdale students answered 14 of 16 math questions correctly. However Riverdale kids rated 3.7 on the self-regulation scale, only slightly above the 3.6 statewide average.

The Oregon Department of Education and the state's Early Learning Division Thursday, Feb. 14, released results from the 2018-19 Oregon Kindergarten Assessment.

Gov. Kate Brown's proposed budget calls for an additional $270.8 million to expand access to high-quality preschool through Preschool Promise and Oregon prekindergarten and $15 million through what the state calls "culturally responsive school readiness strategies" through the Equity Fund to benefit 10,000 additional Oregon children.

"The first few years of a child's life are a critical time to invest in high quality learning experiences that will continue to pay off throughout their school career," said Miriam Calderon, Oregon's Early Learning System director in the announcement. "We know supporting children and families from the start helps them be ready for success when they enter kindergarten, and be on track by third grade."

The agencies said analyses will be released in the spring that will break down the data by sociodemographic characteristics. In addition, ODE and ELD will continue to track students' progression from kindergarten to third grade.

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