Developmental screenings, such as the Ages & Stages Questionnaires®(ASQ®), for incoming kindergarten students can help teachers ensure their classrooms are ready to support the social, emotional and academic success of each student and can promote positive teacher-parent relationships.
The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) and the Kansas State Board of Education announced a new vision for education – Kansas leads the world in the success of each student – in 2015. Kindergarten readiness was identified that same year as an outcome to measure the progress toward that vision.
To help advance kindergarten readiness, all Kansas elementary schools now partner with families to better understand students’ development through Ages and Stages Questionnaires.
In the fall of 2016, KSDE partnered with several school districts to pilot the Ages & Stages Questionnaires®, Third Edition (ASQ®-3) and Ages & Stages Questionnaires®: Social-Emotional, Second Edition (ASQ®:SE-2). These provide a snapshot of a child’s developmental milestones. However, they aren’t used to keep a student from attending kindergarten. Per Kansas law, the only requirement for entry into kindergarten is that a child be 5 years old on or before Aug. 31 of their kindergarten year (unless a child has previously attended kindergarten in another state).
ASQ-3® addresses five developmental areas – communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem-solving and personal-social. The ASQ:SE-2® addresses seven social-emotional areas: self-regulation, compliance, communication, adaptive behaviors, autonomy, affect and interaction with people.
Penny Stoss, assistant superintendent for Nickerson-South Hutchinson Unified School District 309, said her district took part in the pilot. Stoss had served as an early childhood director and had experience using the ASQ®.
“We have been successful from the start,” she said. “I think it helps prepare our classrooms right out of the gate. It also helps with staffing decisions and teaching strategies. The report gives the parent and the teacher that feeling that they are a team from the beginning of the school year. It sets that tone that the parent’s voice is valued in their child’s education.”
Nickerson-South Hutchinson hosts an early childhood screening day toward the end of August. It is by appointment. The parent or guardian and their child visit several stations to have his or her height and weight recorded and hearing and vision tested. They also visit a station with a pre-k teacher, and there is a bag of tools, such as a ball, that may be needed during the ASQ-3®. The district also sets up Chromebooks and iPads with direct links to the online Family Access version of the questionnaires for parents to complete during family visits.
“Over te past three years, we have noticed that parents are getting more accepting of the ASQ and have a deeper understanding of how to score their child and have deeper discussions with teachers about their child’s growth,” she said.
Data collected during the screenings can help teachers, but it also can help schools design environment and instruction to meet the needs of incoming kindergartners; support aligned teaching practices and program planning; and support personalized instruction.
On Aug. 1, 2017, KSDE and Brookes Publishing entered into a contract for statewide implementation. Beginning in 2018, all Kansas elementary schools were required to partner with families of incoming kindergarteners to administer both the ASQ-3® and the ASQ:SE-2®. Following a statewide series of trainings during the fall of 2017, the first statewide collection took place between Aug. 1-Sept. 20, 2018.
For the 2021-2022 school year, districts were allowed to apply to begin their 2021 kindergarten readiness snapshot (ASQ®) after March 1, 2021. Districts that applied to begin the process in the spring or early summer instead of July 1 had to agree that they wouldn’t use the ASQ® data as a gatekeeper to prevent 5-year-old children from entering kindergarten and that they would follow up with families. Districts also had to agree to share the ASQ® data with each child’s kindergarten teacher.
Madison-Virgil USD 386 offers a family ASQ® night, said Melissa Harlan, the early learning coordinating instructor for the district. The come-and-go event offers stations with the needed manipulatives for each part of the ASQ-3®, as well as professional staff members available in each room to address any questions that parents or guardians may have. The district also offers a quiet space for families to complete the ASQ:SE-2® and supervised child care so families have time to complete the social-emotional portion.
Madison-Virgil also uses the online Family Access version of the questionnaires for flexibility and choice in completing either an electronic or paper copy.
“As a teacher, I value the input that families include in the narrative answers at the end of each protocol,” Harlan said. “This provides me with specific, individualized feedback directly from the family in written form about their child. They take the opportunity to include both positives they love about their child, as well as opening up about any challenges.”
While each incoming kindergartener should have access to the ASQ®, parents can choose not to participate, said Amanda Petersen, director of KSDE’s Early Childhood team.
KSDE and other state agencies are partnering with community organizations throughout the state to expand access to developmental screenings, according to Petersen. The All In For Kansas Kids Strategic Plan is helping build a stronger early childhood system.
“As part of that, we really wanted to expand access to developmental screenings and to make sure that no matter where you live in the state, if you are a parent or a family with a young child, you have access to developmental screenings,” Petersen said. “We know that access to early childhood services varies based on where you live.”
In July 2020, KSDE and Brookes Publishing executed a new contract to expand the state ASQ® Online System (online infrastructure). KSDE and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) then partnered with Programs for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities (Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - IDEA) in Kansas to administer local ASQ® accounts, with support provided by the University of Kansas Center for Public Partnerships and Research. Any community-based organization that serves children can have access to the ASQ®. There are 30 Part C programs in Kansas, so all of the state is covered, Petersen said.
“We hope this will expand access to developmental screenings through the ASQ so that more people can be screening and more people can be identifying kids who might need support earlier on,” she said.
Emerson Elementary School, Kansas City USD 500, hosts an open house event about two weeks into the school year, said Lusia Requenes, family engagement coordinator at Emerson. A light meal is offered, and parents and guardians can fill out the two questionnaires on a computer the school provides.
“This year, we had great participation,” Requenes said. “I’d say it was about 80 percent.”
For families who can’t attend, an online Family Access link is provided so the screenings can be completed at home. Kindergarten families are provided information about the event at kindergarten roundup in the spring before the start of the kindergarten year.
“It’s really opened our families’ eyes that every day practical activities at home can impact learning,” Requenes said. “I don’t think parents realize that they are teaching all of these skills to their kids. The ASQ helps support teachers in lesson planning, too. I know ASQ also has had an impact on adding more of the learning-through-play feature. In the five years we’ve been doing it, I feel like our kindergarten classrooms are stronger.”
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