Proceedings of the New England Meeting of the State Child Indicators Projects: Forum on School Readiness and Child Care Indicators. Work Group I: Measuring Children’s Readiness for School


Subgroup 1: Tracking Trends in Five Domains of Early Learning

Subgroup 1 was composed of representatives from Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island, New York, and Chapin Hall. It was charged with identifying school readiness indicators that could be used to track trends using the five domains of early learning, development, and abilities and the four assessment buckets plus a fifth category related to the readiness of schools for children. Although the initial task was to identify indicators that are currently in use, as well as future indicators, the subgroup recognized that each state was at a different developmental stage, and consensus could not be reached on what is available now or what will be developed. Therefore, the subgroup members, pulling from their respective state’s practices, compiled one list of current and proposed indicators.

Cath Burns from the University of Vermont mentioned Vermont’s three-pronged assessment that uses three surveys. One survey examines whether schools are ready for kids, a second collects data from parents of kindergartners, and the third collects data from nurses. In addition, Burns shared a draft kindergarten teacher questionnaire designed by the University of Vermont. Since the questionnaire is based and organized on the five domains and has been drafted, reviewed and revised, the subgroup agreed to incorporate the majority of its questions into the first bucket, things children know and can do. Because its primary task was to identify school readiness indicators that could be tracked over time, the group opted not to focus on bucket four, system issues. The readiness of schools had been added to the subgroup’s list and it recognized the responsibility of the school to provide an environment for promoting learning and development.

The following table is organized by the five domains and by the four buckets plus indicators of the readiness of schools. While the subgroup identified specific bucket 1 indicators for each domain, these indicators are not mutually exclusive. Indicators identified for buckets 2, 3, and 5 were identified as generally having an impact across the domains and have been grouped and listed once.


Table 2:
Identified School Readiness Indicators to Track Trends in Five Domains of Early Learning
Buckets Domains
Physical Well-Being and Motor Development Social and Emotional Development Approaches Toward Learning Communication Skills General Knowledge
What Children Know and Can Do
  • School attendance
  • Nutrition
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Asthma hospitalization rates
  • Caution was suggested, when measuring small and large motor development it is important to measure functionality, not condition
  • Can meet and play with different children appropriately for his/her age
  • Adapts to changes in routines at school
  • Expresses basic emotions appropriately for age
  • Develops and maintains friendships to an age-appropriate level
  • Separates easily from caregiver
  • Uses problem-solving skills to address social dilemmas with peers
  • Follows simple rules and procedures in the classroom
  • Sits still and pays attention during group activities
  • Learns to follow routines in classroom
  • Asks for help from adults
  • Attends to individual activity (20 min.) with intermittent teacher attention
  • Appears enthusiastic, interested and curious
  • Uses problem-solving skills
  • Waits turn
  • Follows two-part instructions
  • Communicates needs, wants, and thoughts in primary language
  • Understands basic directions
  • Engages in meaningful dialog at age-appropriate level
  • Uses 5-6 word complete sentences with subject and verb
  • Understands the purpose of books
  • Knows how to use pencils, crayons, and brushes
  • Can recall and anticipate routines in classroom
Child and Family Conditions
  • Percentage with health insurance
  • Percentage with low birth weight
  • Percentage in poverty
  • Percentage receiving public assistance
  • Percentage receiving food stamps
  • Education level of mother at birth
  • Transportation access
  • Percentage of children abused
  • Percentage homeless
  • Percentage of children in foster care
  • Percentage of out of home placement
  • Percentage of domestic violence
  • Continuity of care givers
  • Number of moves
  • Parents at risk (e.g., alcohol, substance abuse, depression screening)
  • Percentage receiving early intervention services
  • Percentage with elevated lead levels
  • Access to multiple adults
Services Provided
  • Access to primary care physician
  • Access to breakfast program
  • Access to lunch program
  • Access to early childhood programs
  • Access to libraries
  • Access to preschool programs
  • Access to family services
  • Access to community resources
Understanding the Success of the System Not applicable to the focus of this subgroup
School Ready
  • Access to school-based health clinics
  • Offer breakfast programs
  • Offer lunch programs
  • Access to professional training
  • Parent involvement in schools
  • School facility is used for non-school activities (e.g., before- and after-school programs; family resource center)
  • Access to school-based services (e.g., counseling, screening, support)
  • Teachers have access to school services
  • Offers screening
  • Monitors health insurance
  • Monitors immunization
  • Access to facilities for physical activities
  • Access to adults in classroom


Subgroup 2: Political Indicators/Indicators that Communicate the Results of Investments in School Readiness

The recommendations made for proposed indicators by the second school readiness group included

  • Adopt a "low-hanging fruit" strategy. (That is, use what you can get.)
  • Link existing data sources (e.g., birth certificates and lead-screening records) to show something different that the sources show individually.
  • Correlate data with the different "buckets" and research insights (e.g., mother's education level on birth certificate with research linking cognitive development and mother's education level).
  • Identify periodic data contact after birth (e.g., lead screening, well-child visits) that can be used to create a picture of child over time.
  • Recognize that changemakers may need 100 charts; have different datasets that could be used to address your changing needs and theirs.
  • Sustain a core of indicators to be tracked consistently over time.
  • Identify priority groups (pediatricians who may touch most young children periodically between birth and five) that can ask "cross-service/discipline" questions (e.g., about childcare).
  • Note that many indicators apply to two or more "buckets."
  • Use a marketing approach to present data. Couple data with human presentation (e.g., if reporting results of survey of kindergarten teachers, have a panel of teachers share their stories at the same time). Explain data in terms that resonate with the audience (e.g., turnover rates in childcare to impact that turnover has on the business community).


Table 3:
Political Indicators/Indicators that Communicate the Results of Investments


Mother’s education level

Parental stress index

Kindergarten assessment

Kindergarten registration information

Survey of children’s function (all domains)

Kindergarten teachers’ survey of children’s abilities

Children’s ability to communicate

Reduction in inappropriate special education placements

2 Children receive nutritious breakfast

Birth certificate information (mother’s education, family income)

Snapshot information (Kids Count core data elements)

Parents of young children receive substance-abuse treatment

Parents spend time with children

Presence of active father/father figure in child’s life

Mobility of families


Parent preference as shown by use

Staff compensation levels

Access to CHIP and sufficiency of providers

Pediatricians collect information on systems’ linkages/transitions

Staff turnover

Parent survey (what did they get, did they like it, was it culturally sensitive)

Program accreditation


Joint professional development

Staff compensation

Transition protocol between early childhood programs and elementary schools

Parents supported during transition

Presence of community collaboration across services and domains

Staff turnover

Provider perception of their place in "system" and value to system

Funding leveraged


Full-day kindergarten

After-school activities

Mobility of families

Contents of teacher contracts

Teacher training and accreditation

Teacher competency

Classroom environment

Principals’ survey of whether schools are ready

Parental involvement

Kindergarten teachers’ expectations of what children should know and be able to do

Subgroup 3: Access, Quality, and Whole Systems Accountability

Subgroup 3 developed a list of short- and long-term indicators for quality and for ready schools.

Short-term indicators for systems quality included:

  • Supply of licensed and accredited programs relative to demand by age and geographical area
  • Staff salaries and benefits
  • Number of children screened for vision, hearing, and lead poisoning or who are up to date with their immunizations

Short-term indicators for ready schools included:

  • Existing school policies on transition into kindergarten
  • Existing school policies on parent/family involvement

Long-term indicators for quality and school readiness included:

  • Number of children who participate in licensed or accredited programs
  • Percentage of programs that meet quality standards (e.g., High Scope, ECERS)
  • Quality of staff as indicated by such measures as the number of teachers with bachelor’s degrees and staff turnover rate
  • Percentage of staff that participate in professional development opportunities
  • Percentage of family income being spent on early care and education program
  • Percentage of children on waiting list for subsidized childcare
  • Substantiated cases of abuse and neglect
  • Percentage of schools that follow a full-service school model
  • Percentage of schools that retain students in kindergarten
  • Percentage of schools that provide full-day kindergarten
  • Percentage of schools that have a policy on school readiness