The manufactured crisis in kindergarten readiness

The good news is that the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) evaluated a random sample of children entering kindergarten in the fall of 2006, and found that only 3-10% of this cohort had not acquired a skill, knowledge, or behavior in a selected "developmental domain."

The bad news is that the kindergarten readiness industry, led by the powerful Ready4K lobby, is still pushing its aggressive, "it takes the government to raise a child" takeover of parenting.

Ready4K's mantra is "Only 50% of Minnesota’s children are fully prepared for kindergarten." It is based on a glass-is-half-empty view of the 2002 counterpart to the aforementioned Minnesota School Readiness Study: Developmental Assessment at Kindergarten Entrance Fall 2006. If you count only the "Proficient" group, then yes, about half are in this group (in 2006, between 52% and 71% in the five domains studied), but if you count the "In Process" group, then you could also say that "between 90%-97% of Minnesota's children are fully prepared or almost fully prepared for kindergarten."

You won't find the following table on the Ready4K web site or in its TV advertising, even though it is the foundation for its entire legislative agenda. Look for yourself and see if you can find the kindergarten readiness crisis:

Domain"Not Yet""In Progress""Proficient"
Physical Development3%26%71%
The Arts6%36%58%
Personal & Social Development8%35%57%
Language & Literacy10%36%54%
Mathematical Thinking9%39%52%

Ready4K also doesn't show you this statement from the MDE study:
Because children develop and grow along a continuum with great variability, the goal of these studies is to assess children’s proficiency within and across these developmental domains and not establish whether or not children are ready for school with the use of a composite "ready" or "not ready" score. [Emphasis added.]

What you will find featured quite prominently by Ready4K is its legislative agenda, i.e., government funding wish list, which in its original form in 2007 totaled an even $300 million.

While state spending targeted to at-risk populations makes sense (for example, the $6 million signed into law this year for Governor Tim Pawlenty’s early childhood scholarship program for families of at-risk pre-kindergarteners), Baby Ed programs like universal preschool or all-day kindergarten aimed at all Minnesotans are at best an unnecessary expansion of the nanny state.