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Echo Press Editorial: Good news for Minnesota classrooms

Here’s good news on the education front: According to a study from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released last week, more Minnesota children entering kindergarten are prepared for success since the inception of the study in 2002.

In fact, almost three quarters (72.8 percent) of children were determined to be ready for kindergarten, which is up from 60 percent in 2010.

A child who is found to be ready for kindergarten is considered on track for meeting achievement targets on the 3rd grade Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments.

Kindergartners demonstrated increased proficiency over previous years in all five learning domains of school readiness, including: physical development, the arts, personal and social development, language and literacy, and mathematical thinking, according to MDE.

Each year, MDE assesses the school readiness of Minnesota’s children during the first eight weeks of kindergarten by classroom teachers with a statewide representative sample of children entering kindergarten.

The method uses a 75 percent proficiency target on all five learning domains of school readiness to establish a statewide percentage of fully prepared kindergartners. This research method was validated in 2010 by the Human Capital Research Collaborative, a partnership of the University of Minnesota and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota.

The more prepared children are for school at an early age increases their chance of academic success in the future.

“Students who have access to high quality early learning are more likely to start school fully prepared and then stay on track academically,” said Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. “Our focus has been on widening access to high quality early learning for all kids and aligning those programs with schools. Today’s announcement shows that more students are benefiting – and will continue to benefit – from our approach and the investments we are making.”

There’s still work to be done, however. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds were less likely to be fully prepared for kindergarten than their more advantaged peers, a finding that is echoed in the first School Readiness Report Card, released by the Wilder Foundation in November.

Governor Mark Dayton and the 2013 Legislature approved $40 million in scholarships for families to access high quality, Parent Aware-rated early learning programs this biennium, along with statewide full-day kindergarten that will begin in 2014.

These initiatives are expected to have a positive impact on kindergarten readiness and early learning success in years to come. So there may be some wisdom in the old adage, “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.”