New test measures local kindergartners’ abilities

09.11.2012 | Times-Standard | Kaci Poor

Can the student spell their name? How high can he or she count? Did the student attend preschool? These are just a few of the questions on a new computerized kindergarten screening tool the Humboldt County Office of Education is rolling out this year.

The assessment test — which has already been used to collect data on about 1,000 students entering kindergarten this year — will provide an unprecedented look at the academic and social development of young children entering classrooms across the county, said Cindi Kaup, an Office of Education early childhood specialist.

”This is a wonderful opportunity for educators,” Kaup said. “For the first time we will have standardized county-wide data on the skill level of kindergarten-age children for language, literature, math, social and emotional development.”

Kaup said the assessment was prompted by a new statewide transitional kindergarten program — a post-preschool, pre-kindergarten extra year of free public education — as well as by a growing demand for data on early education. Data on the educational growth of children in each of the county’s 32 school districts has not previously been collected until the third grade, when children take the statewide STAR test.

Last year, Kaup and a group of 10 local teachers began meeting to develop the new assessment, which includes four sections that cover social and emotional, mathematics, language and literacy, and self-portrait development. In August, Kaup trained teachers in each of the county’s school districts on how to use the test, which can be performed using a computer or an iPad.

Angela Vogt, who teaches a mixed classroom of 11 transitional kindergartens and 10 kindergartens at Pacific Union Elementary School in Arcata, helped create the assessment. She said most kindergarten teachers have always performed some kind of assessment on incoming students, but that the data has never been uniformly collected across the county. Now if a student switches schools, she said, the new teacher will be able to quickly assess their skill level and where they fit within the classroom.

Vogt said Dan McCarty, a computer programmer with the Office of Education, did an excellent job formatting the test so that it can be used online.

”The county really listened to the teachers,” Vogt said. “It looks just like I imagined it would.”

Maikken Bass, a kindergarten teacher at Washington Elementary who also helped create the assessment, agreed. She said she assessed all of her students during the first week of school using her iPad.

”It was so cool,” she said. “And more importantly, it was efficient. It probably took about 15 to 20 minutes per pupil.”

Bass said she hopes to use the assessment to better serve her students. She has already printed off reports on each of her students, and hopes to identify areas where specific students have trouble and where they excel.

Pacific Union Superintendent Karla Darnall said the assessment is exciting for administrators, too.

”Having a standardized tool will make communication between schools, teachers and parents that much easier,” she said. “The fact is, every child enters school where they are. This gives us the opportunity to learn that much more about that child and to help them learn in a unique and specialized way that fits their needs.”

Kaci Poor can be reached at 441-0504 or

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