How is school readiness measured?

About R4K

In 2014-2015, Maryland introduced Ready for Kindergarten (R4K): Maryland’s Early Childhood Comprehensive Assessment System to align with the State’s more rigorous PreK-12 College and Career-Ready Standards. R4K is a developmentally appropriate assessment system for young children that 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. R4K has two components:

  1. An Early Learning Assessment (ELA) measures the progress of learning 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 school readiness (knowledge, skills, and behaviors) of incoming kindergarteners in four learning domains: Language & Literacy, Mathematics, Physical Well-being & Motor Development, and Social Foundations.

Measuring Kindergarten Readiness

At the start of each school year, teachers use the KRA to measure kindergarten readiness 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 readiness knowledge, skills, and behaviors are “approaching” and/or “emerging” require differentiated instruction, as well as targeted supports or interventions to be successful in kindergarten.

Administering the KRA

The KRA was first administered in school year 2014-2015. Based on the feedback from teachers, curriculum experts, and data specialists from local school systems, MSDE made minor adjustments to the KRA and reduced the length of the assessment by approximately 20 percent – from 63 items to 50 items – for school year 2015-2016.  In these first two years of administration, teachers assessed all incoming kindergarteners.

 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.

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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Providing Critical information

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 help 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 offer 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 are also used to inform professional development, curricular enhancements, and appropriate transition practices.



Ready At Five, with funding from MSDE, analyzes the data to produce our annual Readiness Matters series.

 The following videos explain the value of the KRA: 

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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.

What’s New

2017-18 kindergarten readiness data 

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