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Indicator: Kindergarten readiness: social-emotional development


Children develop and demonstrate the skills to form positive relationships with adults and peers, emotional functioning, and a sense of identity and belonging.


  • Percentage of students meeting benchmarks on teacher-reported kindergarten readiness assessment, such as the following:
    • The Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP) Social and Emotional Development domain
    • Ready 4 Kindergarten (R4K) English language arts (ELA) Social Foundations domain
    • Teaching Strategies (TS) GOLD Social-Emotional subscale
  • Or, percentage of students meeting benchmarks on teacher reports, such as the following:
    • The Child Behavior Rating Scale (CBRS)
    • Devereaux Early Childhood Assessment Preschool Program (DECA-P2)

Data Source(s)


Why it matters

Children with positive social and emotional development tend to be happier, show greater motivation to learn, have a more positive attitude toward school, more eagerly participate in class activities, and demonstrate higher academic performance than peers with social and emotional behavior issues. Positive social and emotional development is also related to completing a college degree, likelihood of being employed, and less likelihood of involvement with the justice system at age 25. However, children from low-income households and children of color are more likely to experience behavioral issues that affect their educational experiences and outcomes. For example, children in the bottom three income quintiles score between 0.15 and 0.23 standard deviations higher on behavior problems compared with children in the top two income quintiles at kindergarten entry, which are considered small- to medium-sized differences. As noted under E-W system conditions, there is inequitable access to quality pre-K education that promotes positive outcomes for all children.

What to know about measurement

Measurement of social-emotional development typically relies on teacher or parent reports. However, children’s skills in this domain likely vary by context, so teachers and parents might rate children’s social and emotional development differently based on their experiences and perspectives. Additionally, the evidence is not clear as to whether many of the commonly used measures of social and emotional development are culturally and linguistically appropriate for young children. Specifically, there is the potential for bias in these assessments for children of color and those who speak a language other than English at home. Therefore, it may be useful to gather data on children’s social-emotional development from multiple sources and to use the information with caution to avoid bias.

Source frameworks

Kindergarten readiness appeared in seven 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 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.