FAQs about school readiness

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 The following video explains the value of the KRA: 


What Is School Readiness?

Kindergarten readiness is a child's ability to demonstrate the foundational knowledge, skills, and behaviors in key areas or Domains of Learning that prepare him/her for curriculum based on the kindergarten standards. 

Domains are the overarching areas of child development and early learning that are essential for school and long-term success.  The Domains of Learning are:

  • Language & Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Physical Well-being & Motor Development
  • Science 
  • Social Foundations
  • Social Studies
  • The Fine Arts

All domains are important and need to be supported and nurtured in a variety of ways. Maryland's Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) measures children’s readiness in four domains: Language & Literacy, Mathematics, Physical Well-being & Motor Development, and Social Foundations.  These domains have the greatest impact on overall kindergarten readiness. 

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What is R4K?

In 2014-2015, Maryland introduced Ready for Kindergarten (R4K): Maryland’s Early Childhood Comprehensive Assessment System to align with the State's rigorous PreK-12 College and Career-Ready Standards. R4K builds on the success of the Maryland Model for School Readiness (MMSR), which was the statewide assessment tool in use from 2001 to 2013.

R4K provides a single coordinated system for measuring the learning progress (knowledge, skills, and behaviors) and identifying the needs of young children to ensure they are on the path of academic success. R4K has two components:

  1. An Early Learning Assessment (ELA) measures the progress of learning or the sequence in which knowledge, skills, and abilities develop in young children, 36 to 72 months (3 to 6 years old), across nine levels in seven domains: Language & Literacy, Mathematics, Physical Well-being & Motor Development, Science, Social Foundations, Social Studies, and The Arts.
  2. A Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) measures the knowledge, skills, and behaviors of incoming kindergarteners across four domains: Language & Literacy, Mathematics, Physical Well-being & Motor Development, and Social Foundations.

Assessing students at the start of kindergarten is one way to identify children’s individual strengths and challenges. The information obtained enables teachers to effectively instruct their students and provide additional supports and interventions where needed.

Understanding kindergarteners’ knowledge, skills, and behaviors as they enter school, and the types of early experiences that are linked to school success, helps Maryland’s education stakeholders, including early care and education professionals, teachers, families, policymakers, the philanthropic and business communities, and local leaders determine what needs to be done to improve kindergarten readiness.

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How is school readiness measured? (What is the KRA?)

At the start of the school year, teachers administer the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) to incoming public school kindergarteners. The KRA is a developmentally appropriate assessment that measures children's knowledge, skills, and behaviors across four domains: Language & LIteracy, Mathematics, Physical Well-being & Motor Development, and Social Foundations. It looks at the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that children bring with them to school and should have mastered prior to entering kindergarten.

Readiness is assessed by observing children during the day, asking them to answer selected-response items, and engaging them in performance-based activities. Kindergarten readiness levels are identified as:

  • Demonstrating Readiness – a child demonstrates the foundational skills and behaviors that prepare him/her for curriculum based on the kindergarten standards.
  • Approaching Readiness – a child exhibits some of the foundational skills and behaviors that prepare him/her for curriculum based on the kindergarten standards.
  • Emerging Readiness – a child displays minimal foundational skills and behaviors that prepare him/her for curriculum based on the kindergarten standards.

Children whose knowledge, skills and behaviors are identified as “approaching" or "emerging” readiness require differentiated instruction, as well as targeted supports or interventions to be successful in kindergarten.


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Why Is The KRA Important?

The KRA provides vital information about the knowledge, skills, and behaviors of children entering kindergarten classrooms. The KRA:

  • Benefits Children. Assessing students at the start of kindergarten is one way to identify the strengths and challenges of individual children. The information obtained enables teachers to effectively instruct each student and provide additional supports and interventions, where needed.
  • Assists Teachers.  The KRA gives teachers rich information about each child’s knowledge, skills, abilities, and learning needs. The data helps teachers monitor student progress toward the achievement of Maryland’s standards. The KRA enables Maryland’s teachers to differentiate instruction, provide support and practice where it is needed, address identified learning gaps of an individual child or groups of children, and better communicate with family members about their children.
  • Informs Families. Each assessed child’s readiness for school is described in the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment’s Individual Student Report (ISR).  Teachers can use the ISR to initiate conversations with families about their child’s progress and suggest ways to support their child’s development at home.
  • Instructs Community Leaders and Policy Makers.  Stakeholders at the community, jurisdictional, and state levels gain important information about how well-prepared their children are for kindergarten. This valuable information enables stakeholders to make well-informed programmatic, policy, and funding decisions to ensure that all children are fully prepared for kindergarten and school success.
  • Advises School Leaders and Early Childhood Programs. The data offers schools and programs information about the learning needs of children. It enables them to address any achievement gaps and plan appropriate supports or interventions. The data is also used to inform professional development, curricular enhancements, and appropriate transition practices.

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How is the KRA administered?

In 2016, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation that required the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to administer the KRA as a “representative sample,” rather than to all kindergarteners.  The statute also allowed for local boards of education and individual schools to administer the KRA to all incoming students. To align with the new regulations, MSDE advised jurisdictions to select one of the following administration methods for school year 2016-2017:

  • Census Administration. Teachers administer the KRA to all incoming kindergarteners, assessing each student’s knowledge, skills, and abilities. Eight (8) jurisdictions chose to conduct a census administration.
  • Randomized Sample Administration. Each teacher administers the KRA to a random sample of students in his/her classroom. Sixteen (16) jurisdictions used a sample administration method. MSDE provided guidance to these jurisdictions on methodology and determined the minimum sample size (i.e. number of students to assess) per jurisdiction based on kindergarten enrollment figures. This ensured that the kindergarten readiness results could be reported with confidence and accuracy, and guaranteed equitability for teachers and are aligned with current teacher professional development and preparation practices.

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How can the KRA data be used?

The administration type (i.e. census or sample) dictates how teachers, families, early childhood professionals, schools, community leaders, and policy makers can use the KRA data:

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Why does school readiness matter?

Kindergarten readiness – demonstrating the foundational knowledge, skills and behaviors that enable a child to participate and succeed in school – sets the stage for future learning. It is one of the most important factors in, and has a powerful impact on, the educational and life success of every young child in Maryland.

The readiness of Maryland's children also has a powerful impact on our society and economy:

  • Economist Arthur Rolnick of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis estimates that an investment in early care and education can earn a 16% financial rate of return.
  • Nobel Prize-winning economist James J. Heckman's research shows that effective early care and education decreases the need for Special Education services and remediation, and also reduces juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy, and dropout rates.
  • A Pew Center study by economist Mark Cohen and criminologists Alex Piquero and Wesley Jennings finds that the societal "pay now" costs of supporting healthy prenatal care, sound parental skills, and quality PreK programs are a fraction of the "pay later" price associated with the problems of low birth weight babies, child abuse and neglect, and high school dropouts.
  • A study by The Ohio State University indicates that students who demonstrate age-appropriate knowledge, skills, and behaviors in math, reading, and social interaction at the start of kindergarten continue developing on track throughout their academic careers.
  • According to Child Trends, the gaps in math, readiness, and vocabulary skills evident at kindergarten account for at least half of the racial gap in high school achievement scores.

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How Do Early Learning Experiences Support Readiness?

Extensive research in neuroscience, psychology, and economics shows that the first five years of a child’s life are a critical period of development. This is the time when the brain develops more rapidly than at any other point in life. It is when the brain builds the pathways that provide the foundation for all future learning. During this time, the groundwork is laid for language acquisition, literacy, mathematics, problem solving, social and emotional growth, executive functioning, physical development, and approaches to learning. After age five, the number of new connections slows, making it more difficult to build the cognitive and social skills necessary to succeed in school and in life.

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What can be done to improve school readiness?

To propell more students to readiness, Maryland needs the help of jurisdictional leaders, policy makers, schools, early care and education programs, families, business leaders, and philanthropists.  It's time to:

  • Assess All Kindergarteners. This critical baseline academic information is needed for every child; it supports student learning, informs families, and guides decision making.
  • Support Provide guidance to teachers on ways to integrate the KRA into the beginning-of-the-year routines and with other assessment practices, as well as how to use the results to inform practice and instruction in a meaningful way.
  • Use the KRA Data to inform policy, programming, and practice.
  • Invest in PreK. Support Maryland’s move toward high quality prekindergarten expansion.
  • Strengthen Early Care and Education Programs.Foster a better understanding of “kindergarten readiness” and how the data can identify early interventions and program enhancements.
  • Support Innovative Early Childhood Investment Strategies.Promotepublic-private partnerships and self-sustaining community involvement to stimulate action at the state, jurisdictional, community, and programmatic levels.
  • Show Business Leadership. Adopt business practices that support children and employees with young children.  Make early care and education a key part of the company’s philanthropic or corporate social responsibility efforts.
  • Advocate for specific legislation and funding for early care and education.

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Is your child ready for school?

Kindergarten readiness – the knowledge, skills and behaviors that enable your child to participate and succeed in school – sets the stage for future learning.  Readiness for school is one of the most important factors in your child’s academic and life success.

There are many different skills and behaviors that your child is learning now that will help him or her to be ready for kindergarten.  Some of these skills include:

  • Language & Literacy. Talking and listening to adults and other children. Speaking clearly. Understanding stories. Identifying letters and some letter sounds.
  • Physical Well-being & Motor Development. Running, jumping, climbing, and playing ball. Buttoning a shirt or zipping up a jacket. Using scissors. Drawing. Writing numbers and letters. Using good health and safety skills.
  • Mathematics. Counting. Sorting things by color and shape. Copying patterns. Solving problems.
  • Social Foundations.  Getting along with others. Following rules, routines, and multi-step directions. Handling emotions.  Staying on task.


Ready At Five has many tips, activities, and resources that can help you build your child's school readiness:

Activity Cards

Parents Matter 

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What can parents do to help their children be ready for school?

Parents are their children's first and most important teachers! There are many things parents can do, starting at birth, to help their children be ready to succeed in school. Everything parents do with their children helps them to learn new skills. Everyday moments are learning moments!

Parents play a key role in the outcomes for their children.  The experiences that parents offer their children, starting at birth, build the skills and behaviors that are necessary for school and life success.  Parents and family members play a crucial role in a child’s readiness for school. From the day children are born, parents help to develop will stay with their child throughout life.

Each KRA-assessed child's readiness for school is described in the new Kindergarten Readiness Individual Student Report (ISR).  Teachers can use the ISR to initiate conversations with families about their child’s strengths and needs and offer suggestions for ways to support the development of their child’s skills and behaviors at home. 

Parents can build their children's academic, social, physical, and emotional skills and help them be ready for kindergarten.  Here’s how:

  • Read Books
  • Talk & Sing 
  • Play
  • Be Active 
  • Nurture Problem Solving 

Learn More

Ready At Five has many tips, activities, and resources that can help you build your child's school readiness:

Get ParentTips
Activity Cards

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About Ready at Five


Ready At Five improves the practice and quality of early childhood education in Maryland.


We believe that every child in Maryland should have the foundational skills needed for success in school, career and life.

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2017-18 kindergarten readiness data 

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