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Indicator: Kindergarten readiness: approaches to learning


Children develop and demonstrate emotional and behavioral self-regulation, cognitive self-regulation (executive functioning), initiative and curiosity, and creativity.


  • Percentage of students meeting benchmarks on teacher-reported kindergarten readiness assessment, such as the following:
    • The Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP) Approaches to Learning – Self-Regulation domain
    • Teaching Strategies (TS) GOLD Cognitive subscale
  • Or, percentage of students meeting benchmarks on teacher reports of children's executive function, such as the Child Behavior Rating Scale (CBRS)
  • Or, percentage of students meeting benchmarks on a direct child assessment, such as the following:
    • The Heads Toes Knees Shoulders (HTKS) task, administered by teachers
    • The Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS), self-administered on a tablet

Data Source(s)


Why it matters

Children with positive approaches to learning have higher school readiness and achievement outcomes than those with less developed approaches to learning. Studies have also consistently found positive associations between measures of children’s ability to control and sustain attention, and academic gains in the preschool and early elementary school years. However, studies have documented disparities related to income, race, and ethnicity in children’s approaches to learning in preschool. At kindergarten entry, children in the bottom fifth of the income distribution score 0.40 standard deviations lower on approaches to learning relative to the top fifth of the income distribution, and Black children are rated 0.20 standard deviations lower compared with White children. As noted in the E-W system conditions section of this report, there is inequitable access to quality pre-K education that promotes positive outcomes for all children.

What to know about measurement

Individual instruments for this indicator do not comprehensively capture children’s approaches to learning. It is recommended that this indicator be measured with multiple assessments to capture different components of children’s approaches to learning. For example, children’s initiative, curiosity, and creativity typically are measured through teacher reports, whereas executive functioning is typically measured using direct child assessments, teacher reports, or sometimes both. Collecting data through these multiple approaches may prove to be a significant effort. Measuring children’s approaches to learning is also commonly done through standardized kindergarten readiness assessments that have been adopted by 13 states as of 2017. For example, California and Illinois use the DRDP as their kindergarten readiness assessment, which has a subscale focused on children’s approaches to learning and self-regulation skills.

Source frameworks

Kindergarten readiness appeared in eight source frameworks reviewed for this report. Our proposed definition and measures align with the five domains of kindergarten readiness summarized in the Getting Ready framework, prepared by Rhode Island KIDS COUNT; they also are included in the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework.


The framework's recommendations are based on syntheses of existing research. Please see the framework report for a list of works cited.

This website was funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.