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Indicator: Kindergarten readiness: language and literacy


Children develop and demonstrate foundational language and literacy skills.


  • Percentage of children meeting benchmarks on a teacher-reported kindergarten readiness assessment, such as:
    • Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP) Language and Literacy
      Development domain
    • Ready 4 Kindergarten Early Learning Assessment (R4K ELA) Language and Literacy domain
    • Teaching Strategies GOLD (TS GOLD) Language and Literacy subscales
  • Or, percentage of children meeting benchmarks on direct child assessments administered by trained assessors, such as:
    • Woodcock-Johnson IV Tests of Early Cognition and Academic Development (ECAD) Letter-Word and Writing subtests
    • Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDIs) Early Literacy assessment

Data Source(s)


Why it matters

Children’s early language and literacy skills are key areas of development underlying their later academic success. However, disparities in language and literacy skills and knowledge between White and Black children and White and Latino children appear as early as age 3. Compared with their White peers, Black and Latino children enter kindergarten 7 to 12 months behind in literacy and language skills, on average. 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

Kindergarten readiness assessments, which teachers complete, are an increasingly popular option for assessing a broad range of school readiness skills, including language and literacy. An estimated 43 states have or are developing kindergarten readiness assessments. These measures are mostly used as formative, not summative, assessments, and are not designed for accountability or high-stakes testing. For example, the past use of these assessments for accountability in Florida faced pushback and eventually was discontinued.
Teacher-reported kindergarten readiness assessments are generally more feasible to conduct at scale than standardized direct child assessments, which have greater reliability and validity and thus allow for comparison across children, classrooms, and pre-K programs. However, direct child assessments may be burdensome to administer or may not be completed for every child. Direct child assessments such as the ECAD or IGDIs must be administered by trained assessors.
Current research is limited on whether kindergarten readiness assessments are reliable and valid for children who speak a language other than English at home. However, the DRDP has specific items for teachers to report on English language development for children who speak a non-English language at home and is a promising measure. Some research indicates that the TS GOLD functions well with children whose home language is not English.

Source frameworks

Kindergarten readiness appeared in 10 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, which are also 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.