New Screening Tool Can Help Identify Failing Kindergarteners

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Kindergarten is an important developmental year for children because they will face many challenges and risk falling behind if they are not successful early in the year. Now, University of Missouri College of Education researchers have developed a one-item readiness test that can accurately predict kindergarteners’ success in school. Melissa Stormont, a professor of special education at MU, says identifying students early in the year who may have problems can allow teachers and parents to provide special attention throughout the year to help them succeed.

Melissa Stormont web
Melissa Stormont

“If a child struggles in kindergarten and falls behind his or her peers, it is very difficult for them to catch up in later grades,” Stormont said. “The sooner teachers can identify which students may have problems, the sooner they can help provide additional attention and resources to help those students thrive. This new readiness screening tool can help teachers identify those students early on, which should greatly improve their chances of succeeding.”

In one of their studies, the researchers distributed the screening tool to 55 teachers in 18 elementary schools. Early in the school year, those teachers used the screener to rate nearly 900 students. The MU researchers then compared the students’ scores from the screener to their performances on a reading test and to teacher ratings of their social and emotional skills. Children rated as having low readiness early in the year were 11 times more likely to fall below reading benchmarks and 15 times more likely to have social or emotional problems.

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“Beyond the accuracy of the screener, our research with this tool has determined that teachers do have the ability to make early, accurate judgments about the readiness of their students,” Stormont said. “Because teachers could use the screening tool to accurately predict whether students would succeed or fail during the year, we now feel confident in using this tool when working with children, their teachers and their parents to help them succeed.”

The study, “The Social and Emotional Dimensions of a Single Item Overall School Readiness Screener and its Relations with Academic Outcomes,” was published in Assessment for Effective Intervention. Stormont’s coauthors included Aaron Thompson, Keith Herman and Wendy Reinke.

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Nathan Hurst,, 573-882-6217