Research Behind Kindergarten Readiness

Kindergarten Readiness Assessments (KRA) Across the Nation

Now more than ever, researchers in the area of early childhood and elementary education are better understanding that high-quality learning experiences are critically important for helping children develop and be successful in school.

The Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP) is an initiative with the mission to provide more comprehensive kindergarten readiness data to teachers, administrators, and policy makers in Virginia. While Virginia has been successfully measuring children's readiness in the area of literacy for many years using PALS, it is now using a multi-dimensional measure that partners with PALS to also include a focus on mathematics, social skills, and self-regulation.
As of 2018, Virginia joins 43 other states across the nation that are either piloting, or implementing at scale, a multi-dimension Kindergarten Readiness Assessment.
States that are piloting or implementing a multi-dimensional kindergarten readiness assessment shown in orange highlight).

Kindergarten Readiness Assessments Across the Nation

Readiness data are often used by schools to help teachers individualize instruction with the aim of closing early achievement gaps.

A Focus on Four Key Domains

Research is clear that in addition to strong literacy skills, children also benefit from having strong mathematics, self-regulation, and social skills. The mission of VKRP is to provide a more comprehensive picture of students’ school readiness and success by adding measures of mathematics, self-regulation and social skills to complement the PALS assessment of students’ literacy skills. 


Kindergarten is the perfect time for young students to learn about mathematics and early exposure to this domain is critical. In fact, a child's early understanding of mathematical concepts is one of the strongest predictors of later academic success. And, the US Department of Education reports that career opportunities in STEM fields like mathematics will grow rapidly over the next decade. Despite these known benefits, early exposure to mathematics concepts such as numeracy, operations, geometry, patterning, and measurement, varies widely among children as they enter kindergarten. For example, large-scale national studies show that only 8% of the preschool classroom day is spent on math. VKRP measures a student's early understanding of mathematics, so teachers can work to support and improve those skills throughout the year.


Self-regulation, the ability to control one's own emotions, behavior, and attention, is an aspect of development that is foundational to learning. Children who are able to regulate themselves more successfully, perform better in school both academically in areas like reading and mathematics, as well as socially with their classmates and teachers. In early childhood, a child's ability to regulate is first guided by external regulation, such as a teacher providing cues and prompts to help a student remember what to do. Over time, by having on-going opportunities to practice skills that develop self-regulation, children begin to internalize these skills, learning how to stay focused and to persist during challenging tasks, which leads to greater learning opportunities. VKRP measures a student's self-regulation skills upon entering kindergarten using a short rating scale completed by the teacher.

Social Skills

Children's social skills, including their ability to cooperate and form relationships with adults and peers, are a cornerstone to their well-being, learning, and success in school. Students rely on their teachers and other adults to help navigate the demands of school. Students often need to share and cooperate with each other as they engage in learning activities. VKRP measures a student's social skills upon entering kindergarten using a short rating scale completed by the teacher.


Early literacy skills are crucial for later reading success. Skills related to print and how books work, as well as phonological awareness, are important building blocks for learning to read. VKRP works in collaboration with Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) to integrate and provide information about kindergarten students' literacy skills with their mathematics, self-regulation, and social skills.