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NC Works to Improve How Teachers Assess Kids in Kindergarten

Socio-economic factors and family dynamics play a role in whether a child is well-prepared for kindergarten. (Adobe Stock)
Socio-economic factors and family dynamics play a role in whether a child is well-prepared for kindergarten. (Adobe Stock)
April 30, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. -- This fall, North Carolina is expanding how teachers gauge children's development during their first few months of school.

Advocates say the move could help school principals, superintendents and the state make better decisions about children's strengths, and also where they may need more support.

Dan Tetreault, an early education consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, says the new guidelines place a stronger emphasis on what's known as social-emotional learning.

"Children have various experiences and various risk factors as they enter kindergarten," he explains. "So, it's a way to better understand where children are, so you can better personalize the instruction that you provide for them."

North Carolina's kindergarten classrooms are increasingly diverse.

One study found the number of Hispanic kindergartners in the state has nearly tripled since 2000.

A report by a group of experts facilitated by the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation says the state should be developing ways to identify and remedy racial and cultural biases in these types of child assessments.

Tetreault says as teachers observe children for these evaluations, they'll look for more signs that a child is able to manage his or her own feelings, interact with peers and solve social problems.

"The process that teachers use in the classroom, that observational process, is the same the process, you know, it's not a direct assessment, where you sit one-on-one with a child and the child completes tasks," he states. "It's something more holistic. And often, children don't realize they're being assessed."

Mounting evidence suggests that young children's social-emotional skills are strongly linked to long-term academic success.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC