Statistics show nearly half of kids entering kindergarten in Florida not prepared

Early education advocates say state's kindergarten readiness test is flawed

By Jake Stofan - Tallahassee corespondent

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - New statistics released by the Florida Department of Education show nearly half of children entering kindergarten are not prepared. The findings have some early education professionals up in arms, saying the test is unfair. 

According to the state's most recent kindergarten readiness exam results from August 2017, only about 54 percent of students entering kindergarten in the Florida passed -- an 18 percent drop from the last time the test was administered four years ago. 

Linda Alexionok, with the Children’s Campaign, said the test is flawed because it’s taken online, arguing 4- and 5-year old children aren’t developed enough to properly use a computer.

“A developmentally inappropriate tool, like a mouse, at 4 years old, we think, is inappropriate,” Alexionok said.

The state pushed back, saying children are given tutorials on how to use the computers before taking the test. If they can’t do it successfully, the test stops and they’re given more help.

Roy Keister runs Scottsdale Academy and is also president of the Florida Association for Child Care Management.

“We saw about a 10-point decrease,” Keister said.

He said the new test focuses too much on literacy and not enough on areas such as social development.

“They don't measure how much the children have gained socially and emotionally while they go through the VPK (Voluntary Prekindergarten Education) Program,” Keister said. 

According to some early education advocates, the issues with the test ultimately have a greater impact on children from lower socioeconomic areas.

“A lot of children in Florida are living in food insecure houses and, when you're food insecure and you're hungry, it has a direct neuroscience impact on your ability to learn,” Alexionok said.

It’s important to point out the test was administered on computers when it was given in 2013 and had much higher pass rates, but that test was scrapped for being too easy.

Even with the large decrease in the pass rate, children who attend prekindergarten are still about 10 percent more likely to pass the kindergarten readiness exam. Although preschools could lose state funding if they don’t maintain a 60 percent pass rate.
 

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