Children achieve their optimal development

% of kindergartners eligible for free or reduced lunch who are ready for school in all 5 domains of healthy development


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Story Behind the Curve

Kindergarten readiness is a difficult concept to measure. Since 2000, Vermont has surveyed kindergarten teachers six to ten weeks after the start of each school year. Teachers were asked to assess the readiness of each child in their kindergarten class based on questions organized under five categories or domains: social and emotional development; knowledge and approaches to learning; communication; cognitive development; and physical health and development (wellness).

The SY2018Ready for Kindergarten! Survey (R4K!S) marks the third year of deployment of the new survey instrument, changes in scoring methods, and criteria used for identification of students as ready. The latest survey consists of 34 items under the same five domains. The new survey also includes six new and revised questions for the Physical Development and Health domain. Only four of these six health questions were used to calculate the total “readiness score. The SY2018 Ready for Kindergarten Survey Report is now available. In 2017-18, 84% of all students statewide identified as kindergarten ready, with 60% being within category 4­ - ready and performing independently group - and 24% of students are within category 3 - ready and practicing group. This data demonstrates a slight 1% increase in overall readiness.

Prior to 2015-2016, a child was deemed "ready for kindergarten" if they were rated by their teacher as "practicing" or "performing independently" in each of the first four domains, and their ability to learn was judged "seldom" or "never" inhibited by poor physical health and development in the fifth domain. In practice, the refinements that have been made to the survey every year over past few years make it difficult or impossible to compare results between years. These include changes in the amount of guidance provided to teachers; changes to the structure and format of the survey instrument; rewording of individual questions; increased response rate due to more intensive follow up of non-responders; and differences in the way the results were analyzed.

An apparent drop in the percent of children ready for kindergarten from 61% in school year 2012-13 to 49% in 2013-14 is quite probably an artifact due to significant changes made to survey methodology. Similarly, an apparent increase in kindergarten readiness from 52% in school year 2014-2015 to almost 82% in 2015-2016 coincided with major changes made to the survey. Comparisons between R4K!S data and results of previous kindergarten readiness surveys are not valid.


The kindergarten readiness survey has been conducted as a collaborative venture between elementary school principals and teachers, the Agency of Education, and the Agency of Human Services, including the Department of Health and the Department for Children and Families.

What Works

The health of a mother leading up to pregnancy, her nutrition and health behaviors, and the prenatal health care she receives may have a profound influence on the health of the baby. Further, the quality of the relationship between the mother and/or caregiver and child, and the child's home environment and early care and education opportunities, strongly affect the child's early development and opportunities for learning.


Vermont has an Early Childhood Action Plan with a primary goal of increasing kindergarten readiness.

Why Is This Important?

A child's readiness for kindergarten is an important proxy measure for many factors that influence health and development up to the age of six years. Research shows there are large gaps in kindergarten readiness among children living in poverty whose families have less resources, and approximately six out of 10 children across the U.S. start kindergarten not ready to learn. Addressing those disparities means recognizing that experiences from the earliest moments of life influence children’s readiness to succeed in school.[1]

Corresponding Healthy People 2020 objective: EMC-1 (Developmental) Increase the proportion of children who are ready for school in all five domains of healthy development: physical development, social-emotional development, approaches to learning, language, and cognitive development (HP2020: Early childhood objectives).

This indicator is part of Healthy Vermonters 2020 (the State Health Assessment) that documents the health status of Vermonters at the start of the decade and the population health indicators and goals that will guide the work of public health through 2020. Click here for more information.

Notes on Methodology

In the graph above, the data is by school year (not calendar year). The year indicated on the chart represents the 2nd half of the school year; for example, the data for "2018" is for the 2017-2018 school year.

For the 2017-2018 survey, kindergarteners were assessed as “beginning”, “practicing” or “performing independently” on 34 items, and whether they were “inhibited by hunger, illness, or fatigue” on four additional health-related items. A ‘total score approach’ was used to assess a student’s overall ability. A student was identified as “ready” if their total score placed them in the “ready and practicing” or “ready and performing independently” range.

Prior to 2015-2016, kindergartners were only considered ready if they were rated “practicing” or “performing independently” on all 30 questions in all domains. Data are therefore not comparable across recent years.

Further details on methodology used for the kindergarten readiness survey are available at: and at

Scorecard Result Container Indicator Measure Action Actual Value Target Value Tag S R I P PM A m/d/yy m/d/yyyy