Cultivate Learning : Center for research and professional developement

Kindergarten Entrance Assessment

Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills


The Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) is an initiative currently being implemented in all of Washington’s state-funded full-day kindergarten classrooms, that seeks to ensure every child is adequately prepared for kindergarten. In 2011, the Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 5427, which moves toward statewide implementation of the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS). In the 2012 session, the legislature passed HSHB 2586, which maintains the requirement that state-funded full-day kindergarten classrooms administer WaKIDS beginning in the 2012-2013 school year. More specifically, the WaKIDS initiative seeks to answer the following questions:

  • What is the profile of the children, families, and schools represented in state-wide assessment data?
  • What are the transition experiences of kindergarten children and their families?
  • What are current students’ readiness levels, and how do they compare with the readiness levels of previous years?
  • What factors are associated with enhanced student readiness?
  • What systems are in place to formally share this kind of information so that children receive the support they need to be successful in school?

There are three main components of the WaKIDS initiative which aim to address these questions:

  • Family Connection: The family connection component of WaKIDS stems from a belief that families in K-12 education should be partners in their child’s education. WaKIDS supports these partnerships by providing timelines for teacher family meetings as well as guidelines for teachers on how best to utilize this time.
  • Early Learning Collaboration: WaKIDS seeks to promote kindergarten readiness by building connections between school districts, kindergarten teachers, and early learning providers. At the child or classroom level, WaKIDS provides a means for principals and kindergarten teachers to communicate directly with early learning providers about individual children or about strategies for aligning assessments and curriculums. At the district or community level, WaKIDS seeks to promote coordination and cooperation between schools and school districts that increases continuity of pedagogy, assessment, and support services.
  • Whole Child Assessment: WaKIDS teachers use an adapted version of Teaching Strategies GOLD, a naturalistic observational assessment which aims to capture a complete picture of a child’s learning and development. That is, kindergarten teachers are recording data, not only on academic measures such as mathematics and literacy, but also in areas of social-emotional, cognitive, and physical development.

For more information on WaKIDS or its three main components, please visit WaKIDS Online.

Child playingCultivate Learning’s Role in Developing WaKIDS

The Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) was first piloted during the 2010-11 school year by the Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), in consultation with Thrive Washington (formerly thrive by Five Washington) and with the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. OSPI contracted with Cultivate Learning to lead the research and data analysis involved in the WaKIDS pilot.

The overarching aim of this pilot was to identify one assessment tool that could be used in kindergarten classrooms across the state to provide information on multiple aspects of student development at kindergarten entry. Three assessment instruments were chosen for rigorous evaluation:

  • Teaching Strategies GOLD
  • Pearson’s Work Sampling System (WSS)
  • CTB/McGraw-Hill’s Developing Skills Checklist (DSC)

Teachers participating in the pilot study (N=116) were assigned to one of the three assessment instruments and were asked to use their instrument to score all students in their classroom during a three-week window in the fall of 2010. The Cultivate Learning team provided support to teachers during this time with use of their tool and data entry.

The Cultivate Learning team took charge of reporting the student data (disaggregating by gender, free or reduced-priced lunch eligibility, ethnicity, and primary language) in a preliminary report. Data analysis suggested that as many as 30% of students entering Washington kindergartens might not be performing at early-kindergarten levels. To better understand the assessment results, as well as the experiences of parents, kindergarten teachers, and early learning providers, the Cultivate Learning team assisted with gathering additional information, both quantitative and qualitative, using several other data collection tools throughout the year. These included:

  • An initial teacher questionnaire, regarding use of kindergarten transition practices (collected in August 2010)
  • A parent questionnaire regarding experiences with pre-kindergarten and kindergarten transition practices (collected in Fall 2010)
  • Two teacher questionnaires (one collected in October 2010, the other in May 2011) regarding opinions of teachers’ assigned assessment tool
  • Ten Early Learning collaboration focus groups (with both early learning providers and pilot kindergarten teachers) facilitated by the Cultivate Learning team (throughout the 2010-2011 school year)
  • An Early Learning Provider questionnaire regarding current assessment and curriculum practices, transition strategies, and opinions of the three pilot tools (collected in April & May 2011)
  • Parent interviews conducted both in focus groups and phone interviews, regarding pre-kindergarten and kindergarten transition practices and assessment practices, also conducted by the Cultivate Learning team

Child on swing set

Considering the data across all of these tools, the Cultivate Learning team was able to provide OSPI and DEL with main findings regarding each of the three components of WaKIDS in a final report (June 2011). These findings are:

Tool selection: While all three pilot instruments adequately addressed the Washington State Early Learning and Development Benchmarks, just two – GOLD and WSS – stood out in terms of positive teacher feedback, instructional utility, and naturalistic data collection. The data indicated that Teaching Strategies GOLD might be a better fit for Washington State, with GOLD being used more widely by early learning providers at the time and also being more likely to be used by early learning providers in the future, increasing the potential for building a PreK-3rd continuum of data in Washington State.

Family Connection: Focus group, survey, and interview data confirmed the value seen by parents in individualized connections with children and families before children began kindergarten in the fall. The report stressed the importance of providing training and support for teachers to continue this practice, as well as providing districts with the resources to facilitate collaborative meetings between teachers and parents, including time and funding for summer transition activities.

Early Learning Collaboration: The data also supported the need for facilitating early learning connections in order to build PreK-3rd systems. The essential elements identified by both early learning providers and kindergarten teachers for these connections were: common assessments and system for sharing; common school readiness goals; and shared professional development opportunities for both early childhood providers and kindergarten teachers.