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IDOE to expand existing early learning assessments, create new one

A young child paints on a canvas.
FILE PHOTO: Justin Hicks
IPB News
The Indiana Department of Education plans to use new and expanded assessments to determine the effectiveness of the state's early learning standards and measure student progress.

The Indiana Department of Education wants to better understand the skills and gaps children have by the time they reach kindergarten. The department is expanding existing early learning assessments and creating a new one to help more children achieve kindergarten readiness.

The State Board of Education adopted early learning standards for the first time last summer. Now, the IDOE wants to use assessments to measure the effectiveness of those standards, which will be reevaluated every six years.

The state defines kindergarten readiness as children being prepared in all the state’s early learning areas and receiving collaborative support from their families, schools and communities.

The IDOE is expanding the ISPROUT assessment — a test normally given to children between 3- and 5-years-old who receive special education services — to better measure where the state’s preschoolers perform.

Schools and pre-K programs can opt-in to administering ISPROUT to all students ages 3 through 5 later this summer. They can opt-in to administering it to kids 2-years-old and younger this October.

Kelli Servizzi, director of kindergarten readiness at IDOE, said assessing younger students helps determine whether they’re reaching developmental milestones.

“You might be thinking, woah, an assessment for infants, for toddlers? What are we talking about here?” Servizzi said. “But it’s very important to note that the ISPROUT is strongly based on educator observation.”

The state will also debut the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment to determine students’ readiness once they enter kindergarten. Schools can opt-in this summer to administer it at the beginning of the 2024-25 school year.

Servizzi said the data collected from the KRA will be posted to the Indiana GPS Dashboard in early 2025.

“A significant number of children do not have any formal pre-kindergarten experience. Kindergarten then becomes the first opportunity to collect baseline developmental data on all Indiana children,” she said.

READ MORE: State lawmakers share their thoughts on this year's education bills

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The data will also be accessible to schools and parents. Servizzi said modules on the Indiana Learning Lab will teach educators how to interpret individual students’ results and how to provide those students with support. The results will also include information on ways families can support their children at home.

Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said having benchmark data on kindergarten students’ performances will allow educators identify students who need additional help.

“This is exciting for a number of reasons,” Jenner said. “We’ve talked as a board about how we can’t wait until the end of third grade to understand if a child is struggling or not. We have to do it much earlier. This is yet another opportunity for, not only educators, but also parents to understand what that early intervention might look like.”

The training and supports to administer the KRA and the ISPROUT will be available to schools at no cost.

Servizzi said the IDOE will reach out to schools and host webinars, question and answer sessions and office hours to discuss the new and expanded assessments. The Indiana Learning Lab will also offer sessions to help schools and other early education providers implement the assessments.

Kirsten is our education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.

Kirsten the Indiana Public Broadcasting education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.