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All Vermont children have a healthy start to development and access to appropriate, high quality opportunities

% of kindergarteners ready for school in all five domains of healthy development

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Story Behind the Curve

pdated: January 2023

Author: Division of Maternal and Child Health, Vermont Department of Health

Kindergarten readiness is a difficult concept to measure. There are many interpretations of what constitutes “readiness.” Vermont’s concept of student readiness is multidimensional; it includes social and emotional development, communication, physical health and development, as well as cognitive development, knowledge, and approaches to learning (e.g., enthusiasm for learning, persistence, curiosity). Vermont’s concept also reflects the belief that “school readiness” is interactional: students need to be ready for schools, and schools need to be ready to accommodate the diverse needs of each and every child. Since 2000, Vermont has conducted a survey of kindergarten teachers during the first six to ten weeks of school. Teachers were asked to assess the readiness of each child in their kindergarten class based on 34 items across five domains (listed above).

The SY2021 Ready for Kindergarten! Survey (R4K!S) marks the fifth year of deployment of the new R4K!S survey instrument. In 2020-2021, 86% of all students statewide identified as kindergarten ready, with 66% being within category four­ (ready and performing independently group) and 20% of students are within category three (ready and practicing group). This data demonstrates a 2% increase in overall readiness. This increase is notable given the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic on children's learning and kindergarten enrollment across the country and in Vermont. 

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.

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 (Healthy People 2020: Early childhood objectives).

This indicator is part of Healthy Vermonters 2020 which 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.


The effort to measure school readiness is a collaborative project of:

  • Vermont Agency of Education (AOE)
  • Department for Children and Families (DCF)
  • Department of Health (VDH)

What Works

The health of a parent leading up to pregnancy, their nutrition and health behaviors, and the prenatal health care they receive may have a profound influence on the health of the baby. Further, the quality of the relationship between the parent 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. 

Notes on Methodology

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

The R4K!S, along with its scoring on readiness identification methods, is based on recommendations made as a result of an independent validity review conducted by American Institutes for Research (AIR) in spring of 2015.  R4K!S data results comparisons made between SY2016 through SY2021 data are considered valid. It is important to note that readiness results prior to SY2016 are not recommended nor valid comparisons to the SY2016 through SY2021 results. 

For the 2015-2016 survey, kindergarteners were assessed as “beginning”, “practicing” or “performing independently” on 28 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 on the Vermont Agency of Education Early Childhood Education Assessment page.

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