VKRP Launches New Website, Plans to Expand Assessment Program In Coming Year

by Kathy Neesen

The Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP), implemented by the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education in partnership with the Virginia Department of Education, has launched a new website, www.vkrponline.org. The website gives Virginia public schools and administrators an opportunity learn more about VKRP's offerings and the research behind kindergarten readiness.

VKRP has been working to develop a more comprehensive understanding of what key readiness skills children possess as they enter kindergarten. The program is free to all Virginia schools and offers individual student assessments focused on three critical learning domains: students' early math, self-regulation and social skills. These assessments complement and work in tandem with PALS (Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening), which is used widely across the Commonwealth to assess students' literacy skills.

Results from VKRP assessments are summarized in easy-to-digest, integrated reports at the student, classroom, school and division levels. In addition, the data are used to provide teachers with instructional resources that are individualized based on student and classroom assessment information.

VKRP was commissioned in fall 2013. It was created and piloted in 2014 and began a graduated statewide roll-out in fall 2015 across 21 diverse school divisions. The initiative follows a nationwide trend, as more and more states are expanding their understanding of kindergarten readiness across multiple domains of learning.

Results from the fall 2014 assessments indicated that over 34% of Virginia students entering kindergarten lacked readiness skills in one or more critical learning domains. Amanda Williford, associate research professor at the Curry School of Education and lead researcher of VKRP, notes that these findings are troubling and need to be addressed.

"Too many children come into kindergarten far behind their peers and often continue to be left behind," she said. " It is critically important to identify where children are in terms of their early math, social-emotional, and literacy skills so that teachers can provide the right levels of support."

During the 2016-2017 school year, VKRP expanded its assessment program to help identify these readiness gaps. Forty-five different school divisions across the state of Virginia participated in the program. The graduated roll-out has allowed the VKRP research team to gather feedback from teachers, as well as school and division leaders, so that improvements could be made to the program at all levels.

VKRP program is expanding again to include additional divisions for the 2017-2018 school year.¬†Schools divisions interested in learning more about VKRP can visit www.vkrponline.org or contact the team at [email protected] or 1-866-301-8278 Ext 1.