Report: 1 in 4 Illinois children ready to enter kindergarten

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Just one in four children in Illinois was fully prepared to enter kindergarten in the most recent school year, and substantial gaps in readiness exist between children of different socio-economic groups, according to a new State Board of Education report.

The Kindergarten Individual Survey report, released this week, shows 26% of more than 115,000 kindergarteners were ready in three areas: social and emotional development, language and literacy development and math, up slightly from a year earlier when 24% of kindergartners demonstrated full readiness.

This year, 39% of the students weren't ready in any of the three areas, while 18% were equipped in just one.

"When a teacher looks at the overall readiness of the class, the teacher can use that information to support what they need to do with their curriculum so they know how to plan for their classroom," said Carisa Hurley said, the board's director of early childhood. "The goal is to identify where children are and to help them increase their readiness."

The report's numbers indicate that readiness benchmarks were lower for low-income students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch.

In Illinois, just 18% of under resourced children were fully prepared, compared to 34% of students who aren't eligible for the lunch program.

"Systemic inequities in resources and opportunities can negatively impact the development of young children," State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said. "We look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers to increase the state's investments in early childhood education and close gaps in development as early as possible."

Math is where Illinois kindergartners had the most trouble, with 33% indicating readiness. In social and emotional development, 53% were prepared. And 46% were ready in language/literacy.

Across the board, the results show minimal progress from the previous year. The statewide survey took place during the first 40 days of the 2018-2019 school year.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's new state budget includes an additional $50 million for early-childhood education. It's a 10% increase that could result in serving a projected 4,600-5,800 more children, officials noted.